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How I Chose My Fertility Doctor

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a blog by Traci Shahan, RN, WHNP-BC, Doctor of Nursing, Albrecht Women’s Care: A Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility December 31, 2010

Talking to a patient last week (and reading recent FertilityAuthority Daily Shots) caused me to reflect on how I finally chose my fertility doctor, a reproductive endocrinologist.

The patient recounted recent care she had received at a different physician practice “horrible!" My own case was similar to hers. It was not clear-cut, and it had confused several OB/GYNs, most of whom referred me on.

My Infertility Story

We had tried for several years to have a baby, only to be met with multiple early pregnancy losses (miscarriages). I did not work as an reproductive endocrinology and infertility (REI) nurse practitioner at that time, so I did not have the advantage that I do today of the power of being informed. (I think the power of community — intentionally creating relationships with those who are affected by infertility — is bested only by having a fantastic physician — one who understands the emotional wounding that can accompany infertility.)

I had been the recipient of really great nursing care (you rock, Kate, wherever you are!) and really abysmal care (one nurse told me to throw away, “the products of your conception,” even though I knew that they should be examined for karyotypes.) I simply knew that after all we had been through, there had to be someone who could help me in a kind, professional manner — someone who would risk being fully human and present with me.

Finding the Right Fertility Doctor

It wasn't easy, but I found him. I found my fertility doctor, who is now retired, by persevering and calling local OB/GYN offices and asking who they recommended. During one phone call, I actually spoke with a doctor who said in no uncertain terms said that she recommended this particular fertility doctor for all of her emotionally bereft patients. We were sold during the first appointment, not so much by what he said, but by what he didn’t. He didn’t brag; he didn’t sit under a wall of fame; and most of all, he didn’t talk badly about other practices.

Reproductive endocrinology is comprised of many different types of personalities, as are most professions. For me, I was so emotionally drained by the time I found my fertility doctor that I realized I didn’t just want anyone who could do IVF or inseminations. I needed someone who would take the time to care for all of me — mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically. This is not always easy in a field that is driven by numbers and populated by overachievers.

Beyond the Success Rates

I did not choose the doctor with the best numbers; I chose the one that actually hugged us after our first visit and offered to see us at the drop of a tear — of which I had many. He didn’t push to choose IVF or inseminations. He said simply, “I am here to serve you both. Let me know how I can best do that.”

It worked, even though there were many times — even weeks after our final positive pregnancy test — that I doubted the process. Today, I encourage everyone to ask friends for referrals, examine Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (SART) data with the eye of an actuary and interview registered nurses or nurse practitioners to obtain the fertility care that best fits your particular needs.

Remember, numbers don’t tell the whole story — people do. Search until you have found a practice that honors your needs.

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Comments (1)

Dear Traci,

Thank you for this article. I completely agree with your advice to seek out an RE and clininc that meets your emotional needs, as well as your medical needs.

My first RE had been my OB/GYN for years, treating my endometriosis and performing necessary surgeries to combat that disease and the adhesions that frequently accompanies the numerous surgeries endometriosis can require. This RE prided himself on having a higher success rate that his main competitor and even blew up and displayed a billboard of his success rates versus that of the other RE. He was a very well-knowledged RE, but he frequently commented on my weight and tried to sell me very expensive diet products that he was selling to his patients. I am loyal to a fault, so I put up with that behavior. But when he cancelled my first IVF cycle because I only had a few follicles on the one ovary I have left, I decided it was time for a change. That RE's numbers are very high, but that is because he shepards women who are going to be diffult cases directly onto a donor egg track. At age 29, I just couldn't appreciate that philosophy.

When I went to my current RE's office, I was feeling guilty and nervous...until I walked into the lobby. The receptionist talked to me by name. The waiting room was set up like a well decorate living room, complete with roaring fire in the fireplace and soothing music playing in the background. My RE knew my name and my case file before I walked into the consultation room (which was always cozy), and he managed to balance the perfect amount of humor with professionalism. But most of all, he told me that none of this was my fault. Infertility happens and my refusal to drink $1,000 weight loss shakes was not keeping me from getting pregnant. He also told me that he didn't care if I brought down his success numbers...he cared about me taking home a baby. If that meant we decided to go forward with only one follicle, well, it only takes one egg and one sperm becoming one embryo to make a baby. He has been my RE ever since and, although I am not pregnant yet and am likely going to end up moving on to donor eggs, I feel hopeful, not guilty. That is the difference having the right RE can make.

I've recently started my own blog - - and am so thankful to you for inspiring me to do so. Blogs have been my lifeline through some pretty stormy waters through much of this journey. I appreciate what you do and wish you the best.

Yours Truly,
Princess Wahna Bea Mama

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