Know When To Fold ‘Em: Is It Time to Change Doctors?

You have started fertility testing or treatment with a doctor who you know and trust. Or, so it seems. Perhaps, you are starting to realize that your doctor or clinic is not a good fit for you and you feel uncomfortable every time you walk through the door. Or maybe you have an intuition that your doctor does not have the level of expertise you originally thought was being offered.  Did you know you have the right to go to another clinic and that a good doctor will not be offended if you decide to make a change?  Here are some reasons why you might be better off changing providers:

•    Your OB/GYN Does Not Seem To Specialize In Infertility (Even If Their Business Card Claims That They Do)

OB/GYN’s are terrific at caring for pregnant women and delivering babies. They are not always so great at treating infertility.  I hear many complaints from clients because their doctor has offered ineffective, low-level treatment for so long that it has wasted time and money, prevented more effective treatment from occurring and possibly even put their health at risk. If you are 35 or older, it makes sense to start infertility treatment with a medical professional, such as a reproductive endocrinologist, who has received training in reproductive medicine and infertility. If you do not conceive after three to four months of oral medication use, or three to five intra-uterine inseminations with your OB/GYN, get a second opinion with a reproductive endocrinologist at a fertility clinic. You do not have to ask your current doctor for permission or for a referral to do so.

•    You Feel Like A Number At Your Clinic

This is a very common complaint at fertility clinics. You might need more one-on-one time with your doctor than is being offered to you, or you may not feel that your care is being individualized enough to suit your specific needs. The American Fertility Association’s Professional Network, online patient groups and the SART are all sources of referral and recommendation for doctors and clinics with whom you may feel better suited. You may or may not decide to pursue treatment with another clinic or doctor, but you certainly have the right to do so. Self-advocacy can help your treatment efforts feel much more comfortable.

•    Another Clinic Offers More Options

Some clinics offer a larger variety of fertility treatment options than others, such as PGD or frozen donor egg cycles. Another example is that some clinics are offering time-lapse embryo incubators that offer better predictors for success in pregnancy. You might simply prefer to work with a female or male doctor. Work with the clinic that best fits your needs, not just the clinic that is closest to your house. Do your research, then trust your intuition about which clinic or doctor is the right one for you.

•    Traveling May Yield A Better Option

It is becoming more common for people to travel to the clinic that best suits their needs.  For example, if you have had recurrent pregnancy losses, traveling to a fertility clinic that has been doing research in that area may cost some money and time but give you your best option to have a full-term pregnancy.  However, traveling just for the sake of traveling may not be your best option. Consider the costs in time and money and what you will be “buying” for the extra effort.  Traveling to a less expensive clinic may not be better, nor is cost necessarily a reason to make a change.

•    You Have Been Traumatized By Something Or Someone At Your Clinic

Going through infertility treatment takes a lot out of you on even the best of days. On the worst of days, there has been no heartbeat on the ultrasound, or someone has not been empathetic enough to help you with your already bruised feelings.  It is not uncommon for people to have symptoms of anxiety, depression, and even PTSD during infertility treatment. If that is you or anything at all has made you feel uncomfortable, you do not have to go back there, period.  Starting over with another clinic may help you to reset the treatment experience and increase your level of hope.

•    You Just Don’t Like Your Clinic And Don’t Want To Continue There

We all get different signals when we interact with health care professionals and organizations. The culture of your clinic can make a difference in the experience. If you feel welcomed warmly when you step up to the reception desk and truly heard by your empathetic doctor, this may be a factor in your continuing treatment at that clinic. On the other hand, if that one nurse bugs you every time you have an interaction with her or your doctor seems rushed and doesn’t take the time to answer your questions, you have the right to seek treatment elsewhere.  Before you choose to make a change, remember that your emotions may be too raw to make a good decision. It is always helpful for both partners to attend appointments if you are in a couple, to get the best possible information about the doctors’ or nurses’ attitudes as well as the data being offered. Ultimately, what you want is a knowledgeable doctor and clinic that can help you to have a child. Sometimes it is okay to put up with someone’s attitude or presentation to get the best possible medical care.

If you opt to change doctors, keep in mind that your medical records, including sonogram films and reports, are your property. Requesting these may be stressful for you and if so, you can ask the next physician you decide to work with to get your records for you. You also may need to make arrangements to have eggs, embryos or other types of samples moved along with you. Your new physician and their staff will be able to help you with that change as well.

Changing doctors is not personal.  It is about advocating for yourself and your needs.  The bottom line is that you have the right to work with any clinic or any doctor that is the best one for you. Take your time and make your decisions wisely.  I trust your intuition.  I hope that you will, too.

Dr. Deborah Simmons is a marriage and family therapist at Partners in Healing of Minneapolis, specializing in infertility.

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