For women and couples who are struggling to start a family, there is a similar sequence of events. After the first few months of unsuccessful attempts, one or both partners seek medical advice. Sometimes these sources of advice include the Internet, friends in the medical or paramedical fields, or an actual consultation with a gynecologist for the woman, and a urologist for the man.
Another specialist comes to mind, whose expertise can lend some insight into the bigger picture and provide advice for both partners during the same consultation. This physician is the infertility specialist, and is qualified to handle such patients as women over age 35 trying to get pregnant and those who have had three or more miscarriages, to men with inadequate sperm count, poor semen morphology or low sperm motility. Couples who have tried for at least two years to get pregnant are good candidates to meet a specialist.
When choosing a fertility specialist, the importance of due diligence ahead of time cannot be overstated. One of the most useful resources for this is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, or similar federal database. Sources such as these contain the success rates of fertility centers nationwide. These statistics, as well as quality control of the fertility centers and staff turnover rates are also tracked over time. However, they are updated every few years, so be sure to check the dates.
This is not to say that the success rate is the only criterion for choosing the right specialist, or that pregnancy is guaranteed with clinics that have highest success rates. Make sure that the clinic also has good quality control and a strong ethical foundation as well.
When choosing a fertility clinic, here are some red flags that should put you on notice:
1. Fertility clinics whose physicians work only on a part time basis. Part-time OB-GYNs may not be able to attend to their patients as carefully as those who can focus their time and efforts on a full time basis. They may have full time gynecological work somewhere else. Some clinics may have an embryologist who is only available once or twice per month, a schedule that is more likely than not to be incompatible with your schedule.
2. Fertility clinics that lack facilities for freezing embryos. Clinics that cannot store embryos have been known to donate their patients’ eggs to someone else without your knowledge or consent.
3. Fertility clinics that are unwilling to show you their facilities or equipment. These establishments may increase your risk for infection, either by having subpar equipment, reusing devices and supplies, or have something egregious to hide.
When choosing a clinic, the cost of treatment is often the most compelling of all factors, but this should not be the case. Consider referrals from friends, track record, ethics, and above all, your health and safety.