We know that booking a first appointment is a big step in your fertility journey. It takes courage to pursue this first step, and if you’re new to the process, you may not know what to ask when interviewing and evaluating potential fertility centers.

The truth is that not all fertility centers are created equal. It’s important to know you are working with a center offering physicians and laboratory specialists who have gleaned their expertise from years of experience treating patients and conducting medical research.

In addition to medical expertise, your center should also provide guidance through compassionate and caring staff, support services for emotional health, and financial coordinators to help you. Don’t settle for less than the full package.

When you meet with a physician for a first appointment, he or she will review your medical records as well as previous diagnoses, testing results, and treatment outcomes. The more documentation you can bring on your reproductive health and history, the better. You will also have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss every detail, concern or experience on your journey. Once this is complete, your physician will make recommendations for treatment options, explain the process, and advise on further testing, if necessary.

As you can see, it’s a lot to take in at once. To help you as you determine the best next steps to take, here is a list of questions to consider when meeting with a fertility center.

1. What is my diagnosis, and how does this condition impact my fertility?

A physician may not be able to make a diagnosis if more testing is required, but he/she should be able to give you an idea of where you stand in terms of reproductive health and the next steps.

2. If the diagnosis is unclear, what diagnostic tests do you recommend and why?

There are many options for diagnostic testing, but what tests are recommended will vary from patient to patient. If there has been a significant time lapse since the last test results were completed, new test results will need to be done.

3. What treatment do you recommend first and why?

It’s important to understand the details of why treatment is prescribed and what the next steps will be if additional treatment is needed. When possible, it is best to start with conservative treatment options such as IUI before pursuing more aggressive options such as IVF.

4. What does the treatment process look like and how long will it take?

A treatment timeline can be as simple as taking medication and doing timed intercourse, or it can involve selecting an egg donor and/or gestational carrier, which requires a longer time commitment. Be sure that your team outlines what to expect for your day-to-day as well as an overall treatment timeline.

5. How many times has your center done this procedure?

Experience matters, and it’s important to select a physician and center that has done it all. Our team of physicians collaborates to ensure the highest chances of success. In the past 30 years, we have completed hundreds of thousands of cycles with more than 35,000 babies born.

6. What are your clinic’s pregnancy rates for my diagnosis?

A doctor should be able to share a potential rate of success for a specific diagnosis when taking into account age and medical history. It is important to learn the success rates for your specific scenario rather than overall success rates.

7. What side effects can I expect?

While you will be under the care of experienced nursing and physician staff, it is important to go into treatment with eyes wide open. With any procedure, side effects are possible, but with awareness and a supportive team, they can be mitigated or avoided.

8. Can you detail all of the costs involved?

While final costs will vary based upon individual insurance coverage and/or financing options selected, a physician will be able to outline a general cost range for treatment and medication.

9. How many staff are in your laboratory and what is their experience?

This is an important factor that is commonly overlooked in the vetting process. It is important to know that an IVF laboratory has frozen, thawed, fertilized and had success with hundreds of thousands of eggs and embryos. We have a laboratory staff of 11 experienced embryologists and conduct medical research to further refine the technique and inform the fertility community.

10. What is the number of single embryo transfers performed versus double embryo transfers?

The goal is always a healthy singleton pregnancy, and a single embryo transfer is followed wherever possible. With advanced genetic screening technologies available, medical teams are able to increase the odds of success without placing mothers at risk for multiple births.

11. What is the latest fertility technology that you offer?

It’s important that a center invests in the newest technologies and stays up-to-date on the latest medical research. We are always investigating and vetting the latest treatment technologies. For example, we offer InvoCell, a mini-IVF option for those looking for a more affordable option without compromising their chances of success.

12. Do you offer third party reproduction options?

Not all centers will offer these services in-house. If you can find a center that offers third party reproduction through their facility, this will make the treatment process more seamless. We offer donor egg through our facility and partner with a frozen donor egg bank as well. Sperm donors and gestational carriers are coordinated with trusted partners through our team.

13. How do you support patients on their journey?

We believe in treating the whole patient, not just providing medical treatment. We have two clinical psychologists on staff that specialize in infertility and offer free classes, seminars and support groups for patients in treatment. We also partner with Pulling Down the Moon and Eastern Healing to offer holistic options such as yoga, acupuncture, massage and nutrition guidance.

If you’re also curious about what to expect at your first appointment and how to best prepare, this blog can help: What to Expect at Your First Appointment

Dr. Meike Uhler, Fertility Centers of Illinois