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In our younger days, many of us spend a significant amount of time trying NOT to have a baby. We use condoms, birth control, or abstinence to avoid becoming parents until we’re ready. And then when we WANT to get pregnant, we often expect it to be easy.
We likely don’t anticipate questions and Google searches for things like “how to choose a fertility clinic.”
And it’s true; the vast majority of people won’t need fertility treatments to start a family.
What might surprise you, however, is the large number who do.
I’d guess that most of those 186 million people had no idea how to deal with their issues when they found out about them. Let’s face it; we’re not learning about in vitro fertilization (IVF) and reproductive endocrinology during our middle school sex classes.
If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to choose an infertility clinic, try not to stress. Continue reading to learn crucial information about finding the right fertility center for your family.
Is a Fertility Clinic Different From a Normal Ob-Gyn?
There are certain things regular gynecologists and primary care physicians can suggest for overcoming conception troubles. When solutions like ovulation tracking and fertility medications don’t work, though, you may require assisted reproductive technology (ART).
That’s where fertility clinics come in.
These reproductive endocrinology facilities perform various infertility treatment solutions that standard gynecology and obstetrics offices can’t handle.
What is a Reproductive Endocrinologist?
A reproductive endocrinologist (RE – gotta love those infertility acronyms!) is a gynecologist specializing in fertility treatment services. They offer advanced protocols, such as IVF and IUI.
When Should You Visit a Fertility Clinic?
While your regular doctor should help you figure out whether it’s time to see an RE, sometimes individuals and couples are ready to make that decision themselves. And why not? Always remember that you’re your own best medical advocate!
If you’re confused, though, here are a few things to keep in mind about when you should make an appointment with an infertility clinic:
- You’ve been off birth control pills for more than 1 year without a pregnancy.
- If you’re over 35, this drops to six months.
- Your partner can’t get or maintain an erection.
- You’re struggling with missing, irregular, or heavy periods.
- You’ve experienced three or more miscarriages.
- You’re diagnosed with a genetic condition or a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
- You suffer from a chronic medical condition, i.e., diabetes, thyroid disorders, kidney disease, etc.
What Treatments Do Infertility Clinics Offer?
Where reproductive medicine is concerned, there is a vast selection of infertility treatment options. Once you’ve selected a fertility center, they’ll likely provide several services, such as:
Before your RE recommends any fertility treatment, they’ll perform a comprehensive workup. This process will help them identify any contributing factors to your conception struggles and come up with an infertility diagnosis.
Aside from blood work and transvaginal ultrasounds, this workup may include tests like:
2. Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
When other less invasive options don’t work, the standard first-step fertility treatment is often IUI. During this process, doctors will collect a sperm sample from a partner or donor and prepare it for transfer. This involves a technique called “sperm washing” where lab technicians choose the best sperm.
Your doctor will place those sperm into your uterus with a thin catheter. This is a relatively simple and budget-friendly infertility treatment solution.
3. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
Typically, your doctor might suggest IVF when IUI hasn’t worked or isn’t a valid option. This protocol still involves collecting a sperm sample but also requires outpatient egg retrieval surgery.
After collection, the egg and sperm go into a petri dish for fertilization. From there, developing embryos will be placed directly into the uterus during the preimplantation phase. This process is called an embryo transfer.
You’ll also need IVF when using donor eggs to start a family.
How to Choose a Fertility Clinic: Where Should You Start Your Search?
Picking a fertility clinic is about more than just stats and success rates (though those are important too!).
There are several factors you need to consider before making a final decision. Consider the following topics during your search for fertility clinics you can trust:
1. Look for Board-Certified Reproductive Endocrinologists
While most infertility care providers are board-certified ob/gyns, not all of them have gone on to receive official board certification for reproductive endocrinology.
Certain practitioners may market expertise in fertility services, but working with a registered RE who’s gone through all the proper licensing and education channels is crucial.
2. Ask Friends & Family for References
Whether you’re looking for painters, electricians, or instructors, one of the first things you’ll probably do is ask your friends and family members for suggestions.
Picking a clinic for your infertility treatment cycles is no exception. Try to gather input from people you trust before finalizing your choice.
3. Consider Insurance Coverage
As if infertility wasn’t devastating enough, many insurance companies won’t cover treatment. Numbers show that most hopeful parents undergoing ART procedures will spend AT LEAST $10,000 out-of-pocket.
Before you start searching for fertility professionals, make sure to find out what, if any, coverage your policy offers. From there, look for a clinic that will accept your insurance.
4. Research Fertility Financing Options
Many offices offer financing plans to help with the exorbitant cost of IUI and IVF treatment. So, as you’re researching how to choose a fertility clinic, weigh the monetary options available to you.
5. Find Out Whether They Are a Member of SART
The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) is a landmark non-profit organization within the infertility field. SART works diligently to oversee the offices and continuing education of doctors with a fertility speciality.
By picking a fertility clinic that’s a SART member, you can feel confident their team has the latest information and training. SART members must also uphold the organization’s strict ethics policies.
Selecting a SART member for treatment will ensure you receive the high-quality options and services you deserve.
6. Ensure Clinics Offer Reproductive Technologies Options You Require
Most fertility clinics will offer basic ART services such as IUI and IVF. If you require specialized treatments, it’s crucial to determine if they can meet your needs.
Search for infertility doctors that offer services such as genetic testing, male infertility testing, on-site embryology lab, and connections to a reputable sperm or egg donor program.
Since studies show depression is common in people struggling with infertility, asking if the clinic offers counseling services or referrals is also a good idea.
7. Decide Whether the Clinic is Close Enough to Your Home and Work
When choosing a fertility clinic, one thing to remember is how long it will take to get back and forth to your appointments.
Each IVF cycle is unique, but they all require a lot of appointments. From pre-cycle testing to embryo transfers, you’ll need several visits. The continual back and forth can be daunting if you end up needing multiple cycles.
I remember during my first IVF cycle, for instance, I was at high risk for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS.). Therefore, during my stimulation phase, I had to make daily trips to the clinic.
If you live too far from your doctor’s office, circumstances like this can worsen an already challenging experience.
8. Ask About Evening and Weekend Hours
Are you concerned about balancing fertility treatments with your personal life and work? Find out if evening and weekend appointments are an option. This will provide a little more flexibility in your schedule.
Questions You Should Ask Fertility Specialists Before Finalizing Your Decision
Once you’ve narrowed your options, it’s time to get more detailed information about the clinics you’re considering.
When it comes to guidelines for choosing a fertility clinic, asking plenty of questions is always a good idea. Don’t be afraid to ask for a fertility consultation to learn more about proposed treatment plans and general office policies.
In addition to the information listed above, the following sample questions will help you understand what you might want to ask:
- What is Your Clinic’s Success Rate? Previously, we mentioned that statistics weren’t the only thing that mattered when picking a fertility clinic – that doesn’t mean they’re not necessary, though. Asking about IUI and IVF success rates and the live birth rate among patients is crucial.
- Is There a Waiting List for Treatment? Some popular clinics will put hopeful parents on a waiting list. If this doesn’t fit into your family planning process, it’s information you need to know.
- What Types of Lifestyle Changes Do You Recommend for Fertility? While ART techniques are among the most valuable ways to treat infertility, they aren’t always the only recommendation. Acupuncture for fertility and natural fertility supplements, for example, are often suggested along with various protocols.
- What Number of Embryos Do You Suggest Transferring? During the last four decades, the CDC shows the number of twins born in the United States has nearly doubled. This is mainly due to the higher likelihood of multiples with fertility treatments. Beyond twins and triplets, though, multiple births can be dangerous. It’s important to ask your proposed clinic about their stance on the number of embryos transferred during IVF cycles.
- How Long Do You Expect Treatment to Take? Planning around fertility clinics can be a challenge. By finding out how long your RE expects the process to take, you can try to work your schedule around it.
- Are Surgeries Performed In-House or Sourced Out to Local Hospitals? Most ART techniques are relatively non-invasive. That doesn’t mean that surgery isn’t occasionally required. Not only is the egg retrieval process itself surgical, but you might require treatments for problems like uterine polyps or fallopian tube blockages. Be sure to ask where surgeries like these will take place.
Trust Your Gut and Pick an Infertility Clinic You Can Rely On
At the end of the day, no matter how much information you gather about optional fertility clinics, it’s still essential to trust your gut. Interview doctors, talk to nurses, and ask for references to gauge your overall vibe about a particular facility.
Even the best pregnancy rates in the world won’t matter if you don’t feel comfortable with your doctor and their office.
Starting a family is not something to be taken lightly – you deserve the high-quality care and treatment you want and need.
Did you struggle with how to choose a fertility clinic? What helped you make the final decision?
Infertility Link Round-Up
Want to learn more about infertility and its treatments? Check out some of these informative articles:
- Infertility Success Stories
- How to Comfort a Friend Who Can’t Get Pregnant
- Infertility Support Groups
- IVF Gifts
- What is Secondary Infertility?
- Infertility Awareness Month
- IVF vs. IUI
Kristen Bergeron is a freelance writer from Florida. In addition to writing, she is a wife, mother of two beautiful girls, Hadley and Scarlett, and a part-time photographer. After overcoming infertility and having two successful IVF cycles, she’s made it a personal goal to help educate men and women on the realities of fertility struggles. She is passionate about supporting fellow women who are trying to navigate the complicated world of conception, pregnancy, and learning to be the best mothers we can be.