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Choosing a Fertility Doctor

First, you struggled unsuccessfully to conceive a child. Then, you underwent expensive and sometimes painful testing before finally arriving at a diagnosis of infertility. If, after having come to terms with that reality, you’ve chosen to pursue fertility treatment; your next step is to choose a fertility doctor.

It’s important to note that while some gynecologists may be qualified to work with patients struggling with infertility, these doctors are generally not as knowledgeable and capable when it comes to handling fertility issues as doctors who specialize in reproductive medicine. Never allow yourself to be limited by the doctors from whom you have received care up to this point. Don’t let a misplaced sense of loyalty to your gynecologist keep you from seeking the specialized care you need.

In some ways, choosing a fertility doctor is no different from choosing any doctor or specialist. But sadly, the choice may be dictated not by clinical choices or personal preference, but by how the procedure is going to be paid for. If you have insurance coverage for fertility treatments, call your insurance company to get coverage details and to ask for a list of providers. Be sure to ask about coverage for “out of network” providers; some companies provide for out of network coverage under certain conditions – such as a referral from an “in network” doctor – while others don’t. Knowing which providers will and will not be covered and to what extent will give you a head start on choosing a doctor.

It’s also important to consider your own personal budget. The cost of infertility treatment can range considerably, from relatively inexpensive for medication to stimulate ovulation, to very expensive for IVF procedures. Know, realistically, how much you as a couple can afford to spend, and how you’ll pay for your treatment – especially if it isn’t covered by your insurance.

Once you have an idea of your available providers and resources, you can then consider the specifics of your individual case. You should have an exact diagnosis for your issue, and your partner should have been evaluated as well. A general diagnosis of infertility, or a suspected diagnosis of infertility isn’t sufficient – you need to know exactly what the issues are in order to choose the right provider.

With the diagnosis in hand, and an understanding of your insurance and finances, it’s time to investigate the doctors themselves. Start with the doctor who gave you the initial diagnosis. Who does their office recommend for patients with your condition? Who do they have a professional relationship with? Is there a regional hospital nearby that has a large infertility program? Ask your friends and family for recommendations as well; word of mouth recommendations can give you important feedback.

Now it's time to burn up the phone lines. Call the doctors that interest you, and ask if they schedule initial interview consultations. If they do offer such appointments, make one. If they don't, move that practice to the bottom of your list and move on. Fertility treatment requires a partnership between the couple and their doctor, and you need a doctor who’s willing and able to talk with you and answer your questions.

Choose the top few providers based on your initial conversations with their offices, and attend consultation appointments with them. Ask what experience the practice has with patients with your specific diagnosis. What are the most common treatments used for your condition? Be aware that if 50% of the patients receive IVF, your chances of being recommended for IVF are 50%. Ask about success rates. Hopefully you will see a display of photographs of babies the practice has helped bring into the world; this shows a personal involvement on the part of the families that used the practice.

After you’ve spoken with several different doctors, you’ll then be ready to choose the one that you and your partner are most comfortable with. Intangibles qualities, such as bedside manner and the ability to inspire confidence, are also important when choosing your provider. Hopefully, they’ll only be a part of your life for a short time, but you want to be able to look back on the part they played fondly as you enjoy your life with your child.

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