How to Choose a Fertility Clinic and Physician

By:  Kimberley A. Thornton, MD

Struggling with infertility is an overwhelming and emotionally difficult experience for many couples.  On top of the stress of coping with a diagnosis of infertility, many couples feel unsure of how to choose a physician to help them on their journey to parenthood.  It is important for a woman to find a qualified physician who she feels comfortable with to help her understand her diagnosis and to start her on the pathway of beginning treatment.  When faced with the difficult decision of finding the right physician, here are a couple of important factors to consider.

The qualifications of the physician and fertility clinic you are choosing are important.  Physicians treating couples for infertility should have completed an American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology approved fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility after completing a four year residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology. It is important that you ensure the physician you are choosing has met these qualifications.  The quality of the clinic you are choosing is also important, especially for treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) where eggs and embryos are handled by the clinic’s embryologists in a laboratory.  The equipment, protocols, and quality of a lab can vary dramatically between clinics.  In the United States, the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) is a professional organization that collects data from IVF clinics to provide essential data on fertility treatment (www.sart.org).  SART works closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to verify and publish annually pregnancy data on IVF clinics in the United States.  This data provides patients with reliable information on the likelihood of success with different treatment options.  Although you cannot directly compare one clinic to another on the SART website, especially considering patient characteristics can vary dramatically from clinic to clinic which may affect expected outcomes, you can get an objective report on the number of treatment cycles for each clinic per year and the age of patients treated.  This can help gather a sense of how much experience a particular clinic has with assisted reproductive technology in treating couples with infertility.  The SART website also enables patients to search all fertility clinics in their area by inputting their zip code or state, allowing patients to easily find clinics near their home.  When making an appointment with a physician’s office, it is important to find out if they are open seven days a week or not.  The timing of ovulation or monitoring that may need to be done for fertility treatment often does not fit clearly into a five day work week.  Being open seven days a week ensures your cycle will not be compromised and is important for optimal success.

Lastly and most importantly, a woman should find a physician and fertility clinic that she feels comfortable with.  Some women rely on a referral from their OB/GYN whom they’ve already developed a trusting relationship with while others pick a physician by word of mouth or find a physician through their insurance company.  It is important make an initial consultation appointment after choosing a physician to get acquainted with them and for them to become familiar with your case.  Remember, at all fertility clinics the office staff should be polite, responsive to your needs, and you should have the ability to easily follow up when additional questions arise.  By choosing a reputable clinic where you feel comfortable, you can put some of your unease aside and feel assured you are getting the best care possible to help achieve your goals of building a family.

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