When a husband and wife make the decision to actively get professional help in their quest for a baby, the first step is the initial consultation. This is much more than just an evaluation visit. It is the all-important first encounter between patient and doctor and it is sets the tone for the professional relationship.
Many of my new patients have already had some infertility treatment elsewhere. Based on their stories, here are some are some common things that they sometimes felt were missing.
Ask yourself if the following criteria have been met in your own first visit:
YOU SHOULD HAVE GAINED AN OVERALL UNDERSTANDING OF YOUR SITUATION. A good first consultation is not a one-way interaction in which the doctor asks all the questions. It should also be an educational session where you are educated and your questions are answered. Ideally, your doctor should be able to give you an overall idea of how serious your condition is and how favorable your chances of getting pregnant are, based on the information available so far.
YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN GIVEN A CLEAR IMMEDIATE PLAN AND SOME IDEA OF THE LONG TERM CONTINGENCY PLANS. At the end of your consultation, you should know what the next step is, whether it be to get some tests or to choose a particular treatment. If there is only one test planned, you might even get an idea of where to go from there after the tests are back. For example, if this test result is A, then we will do this. If B, then we will do this. If there are multiple tests, then it is best to wait until the results are back and then formulating the next step, rather than try to go through all the permutations of possible results.
YOU SHOULD FEEL CONFIDENT THAT YOUR DOCTOR IS KNOWLEDGEABLE. If you have an uneasy feeling about your doctor's level of expertise, it is your right to ask for further clarification on their thought process in the recommendations they have made for you. It is also reasonable to ask your doctors regarding their training and career experience. No matter how many diplomas, years of practice and board certifications they have, you are still the ultimate judge of whether or not your feel comfortable with this person as your doctor.
YOU SHOULD FEEL CONFIDENT THAT YOUR DOCTOR HAS YOUR BEST INTERESTS AT HEART. One common feedback from patients is that their previous doctors seemed very pushy about selling them on IVF and deflected any questions about other options. There is a difference between a recommendation of IVF because it is the best option for a given couple's particular situation vs a universal push towards IVF in order to boost the practice's IVF volume. You are entitled to an all-important discussion of all your options as well as the pluses and minuses of each choice. Once again, you are the ultimate judge of whether you feel comfortable trusting the doctor's recommendations or not.
YOU SHOULD HAVE HAD THE CHANCE TO SHARE ALL THE INFORMATION THAT YOU FEEL MIGHT BE RELEVANT. Your should be satisfied that your doctor made a thorough attempt to investigate the things in your life that might have an effect on your fertility, including the factors that contribute to your stress level. Any questions, even minor ones, such as how much soda you drink or how much you sleep, are permissible to discuss if you are concerned about their relevance.
YOU SHOULD FEEL SATISFIED WITH THE TIME AND PACE OF THE VISIT AND YOU SHOULD HAVE FELT UNRUSHED. Ideally, all your visits will be satisfying and unrushed. However, in reality, for some of your follow-up visits, when you are just having an ultrasound or blood tests done, it won't be feasible to have an in-depth discussion with your doctor each time. The initial consultation visit is different. I don't think it is unreasonable to spend one to one and a half hours during the first visit. From time to time, it might be necessary to have reconsultation visits.
YOU SHOULD HAVE GAINED CONFIDENCE ABOUT THE OFFICE TEAM. Don't forget to pay attention to the level of service and care given to you by the rest of the office staff and medical team. The doctor is not going to single-handedly conduct all your interactions. Even before you see the doctor, you will have a chance to form your own opinion on how promptly and courteously you were treated so far, both on the phone and in person.
If you care that one of the above points is missing from your interaction with your doctor, it's not too late to fix it. Next time, bring up the topic, so your doctor can have a chance to make things right. Your time is too valuable to waste.