Steps to be successful from the beginning
Preparing for an initial consultation with a fertility specialist, or reproductive endocrinologist (REI), can feel intimidating and many first-time patients don’t know what to expect. The initial consultation is the first appointment you will have at a fertility clinic and is essentially a detailed discussion between a patient and a specialist, where the two will cover medical history, gynecological history and family building goals. While it may seem daunting, there are steps you can take to both mentally and physically prepare for the best possible experience.
Here’s a checklist to get you started.
- Consider seeing your OB-GYN or primary care doctor before your appointment
If possible, schedule a visit with your OB-GYN or primary care doctor before your initial consultation to assess any issues that could impact your reproductive health. This will help you gather necessary information about your health and medical history so you can share it with your REI to further personalize your fertility treatment. Your REI will likely want to see recent infectious disease blood work as well as a pap smear before you get started. If you are under the care of any other physician, such as a cardiologist, medical endocrinologist, or urologist, it makes sense to let them know you’re visiting a fertility doctor as well so they can be prepared to communicate with your fertility doctor.
- Gather all prior medical records
If you have received fertility treatment previously, you will need to provide treatment records. Gathering them ahead of time will save you time and allow your REI to paint a fuller, more accurate picture of your patient profile. It also makes sense to collect your medical records from your OB-GYN and primary care visits including all blood work, and reproductive workups like a pap smear.
- Focus on a healthy routine
One of the best ways to prepare for a family building journey is prioritizing a healthy lifestyle and this starts before family building.
- Make sure you are prioritizing your health by having annual wellness visits and age-related exams, such as mammograms
- Exercise, a balanced diet, and mental health are all key components of overall wellness and are particularly important for those undergoing fertility treatment.
- Additionally, patients can incorporate supplements and prenatal vitamins into their diet with guidance from your doctor.
- Talk to your primary care doctor about vaccinations if you are not up to date.
- Smoking cessation and moderating alcohol intake are also important items to consider.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor
Because the first visit can be overwhelming, it’s best to prepare a list of questions ahead of time so you don’t forget to ask. Some commonly asked questions are:
- What do I need to complete before I can move to treatment?
- How do you and your clinic support your patients?
- What are the general success rates based on my age?
- Will my primary MD be the physician performing my procedure?
- Are there restrictions for treatment (age, BMI, hormone levels)?
- How do you batch my cycles?
- Prepare for an unpredictable timeline
As much as you would like to move quickly once deciding to embark on a family building journey, the reality is that waiting is usually part of the experience. On average, it can take ~2-4 weeks to have an initial consultation, and it then takes ~30 days to complete diagnostic testing. Although the timeline will vary, you can prepare before your initial consultation by familiarizing yourself with the different stages of fertility treatment. When scheduling your initial consultation, ask what testing can be done on the first visit and if there is a specific time of your menstrual cycle that makes the most sense for scheduling.
- Prepare your support system
If you have a partner, having them attend the initial consult is important. Your first appointment can be full of emotions, and it’s important that you have a support system to lean on, if you feel comfortable disclosing outside of your immediate support system. Friends, family, and even co-workers may have had their own experiences with infertility and can often provide valuable insight and support. If you aren’t ready to reach out before the appointment, creating a mental list of loved ones who you can approach for support is helpful.
- Determine your family building goals
If it’s your first time seeing an REI, you may not know what questions to ask, and that’s okay. Perhaps you have previously received an infertility diagnosis and now you are ready to discuss family building options for the near future. Maybe your company just adopted a fertility benefit like Progyny, and you are curious about your options for the future. Identifying your goals ahead of time will help steer the conversation to what is most relevant for you and your family building needs.
- Assess what is most important to you
There are many factors to consider when embarking on a family building journey, and it’s important to establish what is most important to you. Are you a busy professional with limited time to travel to and from appointments? If so, the clinic location might be a deal-breaker. Conversely, you may have a more flexible schedule but know that a warm doctor-patient relationship is a must. Your desired experience is important and by establishing priorities before your initial consultation, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about the future of your journey.
If you need more information or support before, during, or after an appointment check out Progyny’s Resource Hub, where you can find articles on countless fertility topics, as well as our podcast, This Is Infertility.
If you are a Progyny member, remember you can always contact your Patient Care Advocate for support along your family-building journey.
Dr. Catha Fischer is the Medical Director of Spring Fertility New York. She is a board certified Reproductive Endocrinologist as well as a board certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist. Dr. Fischer joined Spring Fertility with the goal of providing exceptional clinical care while also delivering an unparalleled and compassionate patient experience. A native New Yorker, Dr. Fischer graduated with honors from Washington University in St. Louis before attending the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She completed her residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Dr. Fischer then went on to complete her fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Columbia University Medical Center-New York Presbyterian Hospital. Prior to joining the Spring Fertility team, Dr. Fischer was practicing at RMA New Jersey.