One may seek a fertility clinic due to infertility, or to find options as an individual or same-sex couple. Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive after a year of regular, unprotected intercourse. However, those over the age of 35 are advised to be evaluated after just 6 months of trying. This is due to decreased fecundity of older women, as well as the increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities. For more information read When Should I Start IVF?.
The doctor you see should be a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist. These specialists will have completed four years of medical school, four years of residency in obstetrics and gynecology (OB-GYN) and three years of fellowship training in reproductive endocrinology. This rigorous preparation allows these infertility specialists to provide the highest level of care to their patients. Seeing a regular OB-GYN is not sufficient to get the most comprehensive fertility evaluation.
Once you’ve chosen to find a fertility clinic, your first inclination may be to look locally. For those living in large metropolitan areas, this opens up many options. For those in more rural locales, however, their choices may be more limited. Although proximity to a clinic can certainly make treatment more convenient, seeking care out of town is also a feasible option. Fertility treatment visits are generally confined to limited periods of time. Care can often be coordinated between two clinics, one out of town and another in town, for greater convenience. Blood work can also be done locally.
You may also want to know how many doctors are part of the clinic. Solo practices may be able to provide more individualized care, but have more limited resources. Group practices offer the benefit of a team approach, but you may not always see the same doctor.
Insurance coverage is another consideration, but it’s important to realize that most companies offer limited benefits when it comes to fertility. Some plans exclude infertility entirely. Others may provide coverage for diagnosis, but not treatment. Still others will cover some therapeutic procedures, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), but not more expensive treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF). For more information read IVF vs. IUI. There are some rare employers, however, that offer comprehensive fertility benefits. Starbucks is one such example.
When it comes to pricing, it’s important not to take it at face value. There are nuances in the way clinics present their fees. For example, IVF has many components to it. Some clinics’ IVF pricing may be all-encompassing, including monitoring visits, sedation, egg retrieval, genetic testing and embryo transfer. Others will break it down piece by piece, so you’ll continue to run into add-on costs along the way. Ask what’s included before comparing prices.
Another consideration is the philosophy of the practice. Some clinics are focused on less invasive treatment, favoring the most natural options to promote conception. These doctors tend to stick to the tried and true. Others distinguish themselves by their avant-garde technology. These doctors may use up and coming techniques that are not yet widely accepted. You’ll need to ponder which of these two philosophies makes you feel most comfortable personally.
Clinic statistics are important to look at as well. Be wary of those who cannot provide these results openly. Look at their live birth rates, since that’s the goal.
If you can, schedule a few consultations to meet with doctors and understand their clinic and process. Ultimately, your gut will tell you where to go.