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Five Easy Tips for Your Basic Fertility Work-Up

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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 February 23, 2011

Approximately half the time, infertility is due to male factor and half the time, female factor. A basic fertility workup will investigate female hormone levels, Fallopian tubes and uterine anatomy, and investigate male factor infertility, too.

Here are five tips to help you make the most of your infertility work-up.

  1. Make a list of questions. Prior to arriving for your initial meeting with your fertility doctor (reproductive endocrinologist), sit down and craft a list of questions. Save this list for later in the appointment, because while many of them may be answered when you and your fertility doctor talk, some won’t be. It's a crummy feeling to get back home and realize that you will have to wait until the next time you talk with your medical team to answer questions. Please don’t rely on your memory for this appointment; you will have so much to talk about in such a small amount of time that it will be easy to forget questions or concerns you have. Have your medical records sent two weeks before your appointment so that your medical team can review them beforehand.
  2. Speak up during your appointment. Ask your questions in a straightforward manner. If you don’t understand the answer, by all means, ask again. Ask until you are comfortable that you know the answer. (Remember that there are different types of learners, and one of the smallest segments of learners are “auditory” learners.)
  3. Take notes. If you are too nervous to take notes or feel overwhelmed, ask your partner to do it for you. Ask for handouts and written diagrams.
  4. Clarify points. Although most of us in reproductive endocrinology and infertility try to communicate clearly with little medical jargon, we sometimes forget and use words that are technical or perhaps unclear. Gently remind us that we need to speak in everyday language.
  5. It’s okay to emote! Yep, we are all human beings and therefore, we have all cried, gotten mad and felt overwhelmed, and some of us have even felt jealous toward women who conceive easily or — God help us! — by accident. We understand that fertility treatment can be frightening, overwhelming, aggravating, confusing and even sad. We strategically place boxes of tissues on our desks and counters for a reason: so that you can feel free to cry and feel that your doctor’s office is a safe place to do so. If you don’t feel that your medical team is attentive to your emotional needs, as well as your physical needs, find a new team. Really.

After your appointment, your physician will draft a plan of care to investigate three principle areas that are generally responsible for fertility challenges. These include:

  • Is your reproductive anatomy normal?
  • Do you ovulate regularly?
  • Is there a male fertility factor?

You should expect an individualized plan of care that will recommend treatment options. This plan should be explained in detail with patience. Please be aware that just because you have read about a certain fertility treatment for another person or heard about a friend’s fertility care, it does not mean that it is applicable to you.

Although you probably want to conceive very quickly, remember that reproductive endocrinologists went to school a very long time to be able to treat many different types of conditions, and some of them may occur together. Our field is challenging, and most of us try diligently to help you overcome your challenges as quickly as possible so you can create the family of which you dream.

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