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How do you maximize the opportunity to minimize your stress with good self-advocacy? How can you best facilitate a dialogue with your doctor so that the complications that go with treatment get clarified so you can make informed decisions?

What you can do
Get ready for your first appointment:

  • Provide details about your attempts to get pregnant. Your doctor will need information such as when you started trying to conceive and how often you’ve had intercourse, especially around the midpoint of your cycle — the time of ovulation.
  • Bring your key medical information. Include any other medical conditions you or your partner have, as well as information about any previous evaluations or treatments for infertility.
  • Make a list of any medications, vitamins, herbs or other supplements you take. Include the doses and how often you take them.
  • Make a list of questions to ask your doctor. List the most important questions first in case time runs out.

For infertility, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What are the possible reasons we haven’t yet conceived?
  • What kinds of tests do we need?
  • What treatment do you recommend trying first?
  • What side effects are associated with the treatment you’re recommending?
  • What is the likelihood of conceiving multiple babies with the treatment you’re recommending?
  • For how many cycles will we try this treatment?
  • If the first treatment doesn’t work, what will you recommend trying next?
  • Are there any long-term complications associated with this or other infertility treatments?

Don’t hesitate to ask your doctor to repeat information or to ask follow-up questions.

Who is your doctor?

A skilled Fertility Specialist (FS) is essential and it is your responsibility to make sure they are accredited with the relevant institutions. (See IFAASA’s list of accredited clinics)

You then need to scrutinize if the doctor that you have chosen is right for you.  Ask yourself:

  • Do you feel (s)he is giving you the time you deserve?
  • Does (s)he show compassion for your concerns, fears, upsets?
  • How available is (s)he by phone or email when questions inevitably arise in between appointments?
  • Does (s)he provide a back-up person, perhaps a nurse, who will know your case?
  • Does (s)he inspire confidence that you can be helped even if you do not have a clear diagnosis?
  • Does (s)he give you adequate feedback from tests and procedures?

It is important to honour yourself with a choice of a doctor with whom you feel a connection. Unfortunately, there may be practical considerations beyond your control (such as finances, location, etc.). Where choice is limited, accepting what is possible becomes your job.

Who do you become in the face of adversity?

It is just as important to know what happens to you when you are under duress. No matter how empowered you feel in the world, it is common to feel at a loss with the thwarting of this goal.

Doctors are authorities in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). You are the authority on you. Think of this as an equal partnership. Consider these details:

  • Your ability to communicate and to feel entitled to getting what you need is crucial. If you have trouble communicating and if you do not feel entitled to your doctor’s time, you are in a battle with your own history.
  • Your motivation can boost you past your internal obstacles. Your needs belong front and centre; it is not your job to be worried if the doctor has time for all of your questions. Presume (s)he does. And, no, this does not make you selfish. It makes you dedicated to getting to your goal.
  • If you have difficulty getting past whatever historical experiences have left you feeling that you cannot speak your mind, seek help in learning stress-reduction techniques. Thinking things through depends upon taming down the feeling of being overwhelmed so you can find your inner strength.

Self-advocacy: What do you need?

Of the many infertility situations that require self-advocacy, how to get your needs met with your doctor is an unavoidable prerequisite for traversing the universe of ART. Once you scrutinize your doctor and yourself, you can utilize these practical considerations:

  • Ask for handouts so that you can be educated about your physiology and the treatment protocol(s).
  • Many people use the internet or chat rooms to get or compare information. Be careful with this. Many women drive themselves crazy because they cannot help but gravitate toward the worst news. Make as much sense of the information as you can with your partner or a trusted confidant, but always go back to your doctor with the information you get from other sources before you self-diagnose!
  • Do not expect to remember your questions; write them down! Same goes for the answers.
  • There will be many decisions. Do not be afraid to buy time so that you do not commit to any treatment until you are ready.
  • The realm of ART is complicated, especially for a lay person. Do not be afraid to ask “Why?” or “Can you explain that in another way?”.

It is hard to believe that you are in this situation, never mind that you have to become a scientist when everyone else barely needs to know one body part from another. One of the most challenging aspects of dealing with infertility is the need to be your own best advocate when what you most feel like doing is crawling in a hole, hoping that a magical force will replace this unwanted reality with the idyllic one of your dreams.

– Content courtesy of Resolve