Finding yourself dealing with infertility is tough enough but then having to find and choose the right clinic to treat you can be daunting. And this is why I want to share some guidance to help you with this because it is your choice.
When my husband & I were diagnosed with infertility we by default ended up in fertility clinic that was attached to one of the major maternity hospitals in the city where we live. This was where our GP referred us too for additional investigatory tests. At the time we knew no better, I never questioned it because I believed these people could help us achieve our dream once we understood more about what was going on under our bonnets! But as our battle to get pregnant continued we began to question if we were in the right place for treatment.
This might sound bizarre but I just did not feel comfortable there, on reflection there was no compassion or empathy towards us at any level. It was after one horrific day and procedure my husband went through that I decided we had to change. The consultant who performed the procedure had no bed side manner whatsoever and frankly I was horrified by him. We were distraught after the experience and it was hard because we felt like we were going back to the drawing board and starting over again.
I hadn’t told friends about our challenges but I knew of two other couples who had attended another clinic and I had to call them to find out more. This was hard to do as we had been very private about it. However, it was the best thing I ever did. Talking to others about this really helped. I received absolute empathy and compassion from my friends and they understood where we were at and offered me support on my terms. We gained valuable tips and pointers and recommendations for consultants. So after a battle to get our files and data transferred (due to absenteeism at the first clinic!) we officially moved clinic, with our paperwork. Remember it is your data.
From the first meeting at the new clinic I sensed real understanding, empathy and compassion for us but also reassurance and proactivity with regard to what this clinic could do for us. We were never misled even though the truth and reality hurt sometimes. In my book, honesty is the policy and I would rather know the facts.
You do not need a referral to get an appointment at a fertility clinic in Ireland and you do not need to have been “diagnosed” with a particular fertility related problem to get an appointment either. You can initiate the appointment. Before you do that I recommend you spend sometime researching a few of the clinic’s and then whittle it down to a top three. This is easier to do if you have a clear understanding of your underlying medical challenges but can be harder if your dealing with unexplained infertility. You may also need dual care of a consultant at a mainstream hospital and a fertility clinic but your GP and/or the fertility clinic should be able to guide you on this. Most clinic’s also do generic fertility checks and tests if you just want to know more about your fertility and general reproductive health.
In my experience some clinic’s are more progressive than others and specialize in different aspects of fertility treatment. Understanding your underlying medical issues that have led to infertility and the implications of that for conceiving will help direct you to the right clinic and consultant. I know in cases of unexplained infertility this is not always possible. But many clinics offer a broad range of tests that might help you find out more. At your initial meeting try to understand what this means and perhaps how they differ from other clinic’s, and what they can assess with these tests. Also if you do know your underlying medical issues, for example, you have endometriosis or PCOS ask what expertise the clinic has in this space and if there is a particular consultant that you should work with who has experience of dealing with this.
Practical things such as opening hours, location & cost all need to be taken into account. However, like any other medical condition your primary concern is to get the best care possible to help you get better and the medical condition of infertility should be not be considered any differently considering what is at stake. Compare costs, most clinics have their costs on their websites and they don’t differ greatly so for the sake of a few hundred choose the right one based on your medical needs where possible.
The services the clinics offer are phenomenal, offering specialized treatment and expertise but I hear many couples complain about the clinics ultimately being businesses or profit making machines and not having their best interests at heart. I disagree with this, good health care is not cheap anywhere in the world and this is science at its best. I know it is not cheap and it can be unaffordable for many but that cant take away from the expertise on offer and the potential outcome. Hopefully our government funding will be coming through soon to assist! Some private health insurers are now offering more support for infertility related expenses but shop around and be mindful of waiting periods before you can make a claim. Also some health insurers only cover specific clinics so check this out. Where possible, your medical requirements should come first when choosing a clinic and your clinic choice should not be dictated by your health insurance. If finance has to dictate your choice of clinic that is understandable. Always s check if a refund is due if something does not go to plan or does not meet your expectations based on your conversations with the clinic.
More often that not our hearts rather than our heads make the decision because you begin to feel huge hope and optimism that your dreams will come through when you attend a clinic at first. It is important to acknowledge the success statistics available but don’t let the numbers overwhelm you or become a fixation or be your only guide when choosing a clinic. Everyone and every combination of two people is different and you have to live your own unique journey. You are not a statistic, you are a person with your own dreams and hopes.
Clinics similar to hospitals and other organisations have their ethic’s and rules that they have to comply with and by which they are governed. It is worth trying to understand what their limitations might be. Fertility treatment can be viewed as a diagnostic and as you go along the journey of treatment, you will learn more about your infertility and your treatment can be tweaked to address your needs. If for example you knew your eggs or sperm were not good quality at the outset and that potentially down the road you may need to avail of a donor eggs or donor sperm, ensuring the clinic you attend at the outset can facilitate donor conception would be wise.
Most clinic’s offer additional support services such as counselling and acupuncture. I highly recommend availing of what you can to support your body and mind on this journey. I firmly believe you need an integrative holistic approach to make the best outcome more likely.
If something has not gone as expected or as described or if you are not happy about some aspect of your treatment it is important to raise this and discuss with your consultant. Don’t let it ruminate in your mind.
Many clients have asked me about choosing a clinic abroad and I have no personal experience of this. I do think the same advice would apply but additional consideration should be given to added stress that this might load on you and looking at costs such as flights, accommodation and if you are comfortable being treated in another country. If your medical needs can be treated here i.e. the medical expertise is available in Ireland for your particular challenges do weigh up the pro’s and con’s of going abroad for treatment.
And finally BE AN ADVOCATE for your own health.
As always I am here to support.
Take good care of yourself and if you have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to contact me.
Alison Reede is a Life & Fertility Coach working with women and men struggling with Infertility. Alison was inspired to focus her Coaching Practice on Infertility after her own difficult journey to motherhood. Whether you are trying to conceive naturally, or with fertility treatment such as IVF, coaching can support you, help you make sense of your options, help you work through negative thoughts and emotions, help you to manage your stress levels, give you skills to cope and adapt whilst ensuring you achieve a better balance, improve your wellbeing and fertility in an empathetic and non-judgemental place.