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First Fertility Appointment: Overview and Tips

Jessica Joseph, RN, BSN, MHA
January 15, 2023
Doctor consulting female patient
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It is normal to harbor anxiety over seeing a fertility specialist. This might be fueled by misconceptions about invasive testing, insurance coverage, out-of-pocket costs, and worrying about a diagnosis that hinders getting pregnant. Part of overcoming anxiety is staying informed about what to expect during your first visit.

 

Every fertility center operates a little differently. At your initial visit, a nurse may meet with you for a quick intake (vitals, review medical information, etc.). Next, you have a consultation with a fertility specialist that typically lasts 30-60 minutes. During this time, they will review your reproductive and general health history.  After your consultation, preliminary testing (bloodwork, ultrasounds) may also be done at this visit.  Bear in mind that this is a general timeline of your visit. This scenario may deviate based on your individual clinic.

 

Tips

 

​1. Don’t Delay

Patients, who have undergone fertility treatment, often wish they had made their appointment sooner.  Some patients hold off making appointments for over one year.  Making that first appointment is always the hardest, but with answers from your fertility evaluation, you can be on the right track to getting pregnant.  Women are encouraged to consult a fertility specialist if:

 

  • Under the age of 35 and have been trying to conceive for at least one year without success.

  • Thirty-five or older, and have been trying to conceive for at least six months.

 

​2. Research

While researching fertility treatment, finding the correct type of specialist is essential. Reproductive endocrinologists, often referred to as fertility doctors, are highly trained physicians who are double certified in OB/GYN (residency training), and completed a fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. They have about 15 years of training from the start of medical school until the end of their fellowship.  It is a highly competitive field to be accepted into, and unfortunately, some areas of the country lack these types of specialists.

 

Patients find their fertility doctor through word of mouth, online reviews, and forums. This may be highly useful but is also subjective, meaning a slight bias is involved. Another useful (and little-known) tool is the SART website.  This website lets you view objective data, including IVF success rates and pregnancy outcomes of fertility centers nationwide.  The best approach is to use a combination of word of mouth, online reviews, and SART data.

 

3. Determine Coverage and Costs

It is best to determine your out-of-pocket financial responsibility before your appointment.  This can alleviate some anxiety.  Insurance may cover entire, partial, or no costs. Fertility centers, which employ good finance and billing teams, often find creative ways to cover some costs.  For those who do not have insurance coverage, various resources can financially assist you.  Resolve is a not-for-profit company that offers many resources, including financial, for those in need.  Future Family is a company that allows you to take out loans for fertility services. 

 

4. Complete Tasks in Advance

Many fertility centers have an online portal system.  It is recommended to complete all forms before your appointment, as this makes your first appointment much smoother for the fertility center and yourself.  It saves you time and makes the whole visit more efficient.  It also gives the clinical and administrative staff ample time to review your paperwork and address concerns beforehand. Which may allot you more time with the fertility specialist. If you have been under the care of an OB/GYN for a medical condition or might have another diagnosis that affects fertility, bring those medical records with you.

 

5. Utilize Time Wisely

Utilize this time wisely by devising a list of questions or concerns beforehand.  There is so much misguided information that individuals get from untrustworthy sources. To be able to speak to a fertility specialist is a precious resource. Overall, options are explained but narrowed down after preliminary testing results, which may take a few weeks.

 

6. Be Patient

You want answers which sometimes take time. As mentioned earlier, some fertility centers run screening tests at the initial consultation visit.  This includes a blood work panel (genetics, hormones, infectious diseases) for both women and men and a baseline sonogram to evaluate the uterus and ovaries.  Men may be advised to have a semen analysis, which is typically scheduled for a later date.  Women may be given a prescription to get a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) done at a radiologist's office. This test evaluates a woman’s fallopian tubes to rule out certain tubal conditions that can affect fertility.  Recommended testing typically takes one month to complete.  After all the results are reviewed, the fertility specialist will come up with a diagnosis and a plan of action.

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