When I first found myself in a doctor's office facing a diagnosis of infertility, I was overwhelmed. There was new medical terminology, testing to be done, and decisions to be made. At the same time, I was incredibly emotional and didn't even remember the conversations we had in detail. My experience with infertility taught me that despite having a team of medical professionals on my side, I needed to be my own advocate. I needed to take control of the situation in order to make the best decisions for me. This required many questions asked, a lot of advice from health professionals, and difficult decisions made. It can be a challenging world to navigate, with a steep learning curve, but here four ways to advocate for yourself while seeking treatment for infertility.
Get Educated About Infertility
Being organized and educated will help you advocate for the decisions that are best for you. Ask as many questions as you feel are necessary to understand the entire situation and to feel comfortable with the decisions being made. What sort of testing will be done to determine a diagnosis and treatment plan? (Read more about fertility tests for women.) There are different medications to consider, varying protocols. Do you start with in vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination? How many rounds of each? What are the success rates? Are there any non-standard tests that you may benefit from? Take notes during appointments so that you are to be able to recall what was discussed and can research and compare options on your own. This will help you ask the questions needed to be informed of all possible testing and treatment options.
Choose the Right Fertility Specialists for You
Don't assume that all reproductive endocrinologists (RE) have the same approach. Standards of practice and treatment do vary from doctor to doctor and each practitioner will have their own procedures. In addition, many REs specialize in specific treatments or procedures. Find a team that is willing to work for you, and that you feel comfortable with.
Get a Second Opinion
You should feel comfortable with the choices being offered to you. If you are not completely satisfied or feel you are being offered directives and not choices, it is worthwhile to seek a second opinion. Many people feel stuck with their initial reproductive endocrinology team. Perhaps it seems easier to see things through where you started, or your options are limited based on where you live. If you feel as though you don’t have a say in what is happening to you, a second opinion is a good idea. You are allowed to fire your team and find somewhere that better fits your needs.
Choose the Path of Least Regret
You will face multiple difficult decision during the roller coaster that is infertility. There will be gut-wrenching choices where you think there is no possible way to make a decision. Whenever I’ve found myself in a dilemma, I try and consider what the path of least regret will be. Infertility can be all-consuming and life altering. You can obsess over your decisions and repeatedly wonder "what is the right thing to do?" The answer is simple: there is no right and wrong, there is only the best for you. There is no way to predict outcomes, but provide yourself the peace of mind that you have no regrets on the decisions you have made. You made choices based on the information you had when you made them. Don't let yourself wish you "coulda, woulda, shoulda" done something else.
Battling infertility is difficult, but you can make it easier on yourself by championing your own cause. Stand up for yourself - if you don’t understand something, ask. If you don't like the way something is going, remove yourself from the process. If something doesn’t sit right with you, choose the other fork in the road. Don’t get swallowed up by the world of infertility, fight back. Remember that because it’s your body, your well-being, and your life - you are your best advocate.