Updated: Oct 5, 2020
co-authored along with my special colleagues:
Dr. Leisha Laird, DTCM (flourishwellness.ca)
Dr. Hillary Dinning, ND (drhillarydinning.com)
Dr. Lauren Capozzi, MD, PhD (thrivehealthservices.com)
Have you been frustrated by an appointment with your fertility specialist? This is a topic that came up at our recent Holistic Fertility Retreat. Given the high demands on the system and the extremely emotional and sensitive nature of trying to conceive, frustrations with fertility clinics are an unfortunate reality.
However, there are several things that you CAN do to optimize appointment(s) with your fertility specialist(s)so that you can work together to efficiently and effectively find your answer to conceiving and having a healthy baby.
1. Be prepared.
Come prepared with a list of your questions written down so that you can use your appointment time as efficiently as possible.
From the physician’s perspective: in clinics with often shorter appointment times, this can be a great strategy to focus the discussion around specific questions that are important to you. In appointments where a lot of information is delivered, this is also helpful to ensure you address the questions you had coming into the appointment, rather than getting side tracked on the new information. After the appointment, jot down follow questions in a journal or binder and bring it with you to your next appointment.
2. Set a positive intention
People will share experiences, both negative and positive about their experience with different physicians at any clinic. Set yourself up with a clean slate before meeting. While you are sitting in the waiting room, quietly in your own head, ask that the very best version of both yourself andthe physician you are meeting with show up today for the meeting. That what is covered is for your highest good and the best outcome of your treatments. This may seem simple, yet I have seen the value and power of this time and time again. This is especially important if you have had a poor experience with the individual you are about to meet with.
From the physician’s perspective: this can make a huge difference in your interaction with your specialist. As with any interaction, open and respectful interactions are more likely to lead to open and respectful responses. I always think the best medicine is practiced with curiosity, and this goes both ways. Individuals who are open and curious about the options, treatment, and their physician’s opinion and experience often have much more successful experiences. One questions that can be effective is asking “if I were your family member, what would you suggest in this case?”.
3. Take your time
When asking questions and even more so when listening and digesting the answers to your questions, remain focused and calm. Don’t feel rushed as this is your time and space to be heard, hear what your options are, and feel empowered.
From the physician’s perspective: it is always a great strategy to ask for a few minutes to digest any new information and ask for specific clarification if there are tests, procedures, or treatments you do not understand. Asking your doctor how to spell certain treatments, explain abbreviations or common benefits and risks of treatments are excellent ways to empower yourself, so you leave the appointment with a clear understanding of your options. Ask your doctor what resources they recommend so you can leave the appointment and have references to help with further clarification.
4. Take notes
Come with a specific fertility journey notebook + pen so that everything is all together in one place. Write down notes so that you can go back afterwards and review what the test results mean or use the notes when you are trying to the weigh the pros and cons of different future courses of action. There is likely to be a lot of information coming your way, so writing notes is extremely helpful.
From the physician’s perspective: this is an excellent strategy! Include in your record the key topics discussed at each appointment, suggested resources, and any follow up questions.
5. Do your research! But know your limitations
It is very important to be informed when trying to decide amongst multiple courses of action in the fertility world (or any health domain). You also need to be an advocate for yourself, and it is fair to question the doctors regarding your options. There is a lot of information available from multiple sources these days, however, be careful with information you get in forums, chat groups, blogs etc. as it may not be relevant to your specific situation. While it can be helpful to learn about what worked for other people, remember that everyone is unique and Dr. Google doesn’t know everything ;)
From the physician’s perspective: this is a really important point and can be easy in concept, but difficult in practice. It often takes a component of self-management and a critical eye when choosing what to read. In the massive world of information on the internet, it is easy to find a wide range of conflicting explanations or opinions that can appear to be from reputable sources but often times are not. As a smart, empowered and knowledgeable individual, it is excellent to want to be well informed about your health and fertility options. When approaching your doctor about tests or treatments you read about on the internet, bring a printed copy of the source so they can go through it with you and offer their medical opinion. Ask them to tell you about the evidence that supports the test or treatment and their experience with patients who have tried the treatment. Again, asking with the approach of curiosity,helps to maintain a two-way conversation that is productive. In the world of Dr. Google, it is not uncommon for patients to request tests and treatments without first asking their doctor’s medical opinion, which can turn a productive conversation into a potentially defensive conversation. Prevent this by asking questions about the information you find, and asking your doctor to suggest evidence-based resources from reputable sources. For example, hand your doctor the print out and try saying something like “I was doing some reading and came across XX treatment to help with XX. It seems like it might be something that could be helpful to my case, but I am curious about your medical opinion on the benefits and risks of the treatment for me specifically.”
6. Ask for a copy of your results during the appointment
You are legally entitled to a copy of your complete file from the fertility clinic including all lab and blood work to date. It can be very helpful to have a copy of all of your test results so that you can double check what tests were done and when. Fertility clinics are extremely busy, so getting a copy of this while you are there for an appointment optimizes your time and the clinic’s. This is also helpful should you decide to have a phone consultation with another fertility specialist.
From the physician’s perspective: in hospital settings, there are often protocols in place when requesting copies of your records, which includes contacting medical records. If your doctor tells you to contact medical records for a copy of your reports, this is because they are abiding by the hospital policy.
7. Schedule your next appointment
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it can be tricky to schedule in with doctors and many clinics only have an answering service. In order to avoid feeling lost in the communication system, bring your calendar so you can easily book your next appointment based on the doctor’s recommendations.
From the physician’s perspective: this is an excellent suggestion! It is much easier to cancel an appointment than to find a last-minute cancellation. Book early, especially if you know your doctor has longer waitlists.
Over the course of my (Justine’s) fertility journey, I saw three different reproductive endocrinologists in three cities, had more than 75 acupuncture sessions at five different clinics in three cities, 18 sessions with two naturopaths, 15+ different types of Chinese her combinations, was treated by a functional medicine fertility expert for over six months …just to name a few. Some of the health care providers I ‘clicked’ with, and others, not so much. However, reflecting on my experiences, the more that I practiced the XX steps above, the more I got from my appointments.
Let us know what you think! Do these steps help? Anything you would add based on your experiences?
It is important to feel supported and connected with your fertility specialist team so that you can work together to find the answer(s) to help you conceive and have a healthy baby. If you have tried the strategies listed above and do not feel optimally connected with your doctor/team, know that you can ask to see another doctor and/or look outside your local fertility clinic(s) for a second (third or fourth!) opinion. Please reach out to us if you have questions about this as there are a number of places we would highly recommend for second opinions.