That first fertility appointment. For those of us on the team who’ve been on a TTC journey (and back), the memory comes with mixed emotions.
There’s relief that you’re now working with someone who can, potentially, help. But anxiety about what treatment might look like, and maybe concern about what the process will cost or involve. Some of us remember the uncertainty of hitting ‘go’ on tests – and getting the results – but mostly we went into our first chat armed with lots of questions, all unique to our own TTC (trying to conceive) story.
For London-based and UK-wide IVF clinic CRGH – the Centre for Reproductive and Genetic Health – the team’s consistently outstanding success rates are grounded in bespoke, excellent care. Whether it’s in one of their regular online open evenings or your very first chat with a consultant, every question matters, and shapes the journey you’re on.
Diving into over 30 years of experience, we asked the clinical and patient care teams at CRGH for their run-down of the questions you should ask, when meeting your consultant and their team.
Over to CRGH –
Good clinics will make time and space, for every question
By preparing a list of questions ahead of time, you can ensure you get the most out of your very first appointment. You’re aiming to come away feeling reassured that you’re in safe hands, and that no question or concern is silly, or invalid.
The right consultant and clinic will always be able to answer your questions in a way which makes you feel understood, or help put you in touch with the department that can. Similarly, you shouldn’t feel like that first appointment is your only opportunity to raise every single question. Inevitably, more questions will come up during the process.
Good clinics and consultants will always make the time and space to listen, and work with you to find a solution.
Look out for open evenings, or clinic info events
At CRGH we’re keen to help our patients learn as much as possible, before their first appointment. This is all part of our emphasis on care excellence, and a human-first, completely individualised approach to your treatment.
We run open evenings every two weeks to provide the information patients need and ask for – from details on our outstanding IVF success rates to treatment types. Our next two online open evenings are scheduled for 23 November and 7 December, and we run them every two weeks. Hop to our events hub for all the details.
Now, let’s look at the top questions we recommend asking, at your first fertility clinic appointment.
1 I’m keen to try other options, before IVF. What do you think?
Understanding all of your options, before starting treatment like IVF, is fundamental. A good consultant will always discuss and explore every option with you, building a plan which is completely bespoke.
So it’s an important question to ask. But depending on your fertility history or situation, we encourage patients to take success rates into account, for every treatment type. IVF may end up being the best fit, for your TTC journey.
2 What assessments/tests will you use?
Understanding the standard tests needed before – or as part of – treatment is important, so ask your doctor to run though everything. Some of these tests are also available on the NHS, if requested, which can help keep costs down.
3 What are the clinic’s success rates, for people in my situation?
Knowing the success rates for people your age, or with a similar fertility history, can be really helpful, especially if you’re still in decision-mode. Ideally, you want your clinic to be proud of their success rates! And, ready to give perspective on factors that impact these. CRGH have a whole area saved just for this on our website – with lots of helpful information from the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), too.
And yes, we’re exceptionally proud of our outstanding success rates.
4 Where do I get my medication, and how is this arranged?
Once you get into treatment, it’s so important that you feel confident with the meds you’re taking, where to get them and how to arrange things.
Your clinic should be able to answer questions around this, at the most granular level. Whether it’s the nursing team, patient co-ordination, your consultant or someone else, make sure you know who to chat to, about medications.
FHH Editor’s note – when I was going through treatment, my clinic’s patient care team managed my medications. But, I was able to access some of these on an NHS prescription (for free) – I just needed my consultant to contact my GP to confirm this. Make sure you ask how medication arrangements work, before you leave the clinic!
5 What happens if my treatment fails?
It’s a hard question, but an important one. And asking it up front means you can move forward with your journey, empowered and focused on the plan at hand. Your doctor should be able to tell you what happens next, if treatment doesn’t work – from how they’ll contact you to consulting around another cycle, or changing the approach.
6 What does ‘unexplained infertility’ mean, here? And what’s the approach?
Many, many patients come to us with an unexplained infertility diagnosis, or ask us about it in our open evenings and initial consultations. Your doctor or consultant should be able to explain this to you, and the current science and studies around it. They should also be able to run though their own approach, when addressing unexplained infertility.
7 When can we get started, how long will treatment take and are there any waiting lists?
This is all completely reasonable information to prompt your doctor for. They should be able to give you an idea of timings, approximate diary dates and information about any waiting lists. So do ask – you’re completely entitled to want to get organised – most of our patients do!
8 Why do you think this is the best treatment plan for me?
Once your consultant has set out all the options, they’ll begin to help you narrow things down, to form a treatment plan. At this point, we like to go over why we think a certain treatment and approach is best for our patients – if you’re not clear about why your doctor favours a specific option, ask them to explain. It’s important that you are both on the same page.
9 Are there any alternatives? Why are they less suitable?
Beyond decisions over IVF, and whether it’s right for you, you’ll be making a call on all sorts of options, as part of your treatment.
From egg donation to IUI, always ask your doctor for every option, and why one is more suitable than the other. It might be down to success rates, but it’s important you understand why something is being recommended, or dismissed, as an option.
10 What sets this clinic apart?
This is your consultant’s opportunity to explain why you should be putting your trust in them, and you should detect a passion for what they do, in their response! And, ideally, an eagerness to partner with you, on your unique journey.
Alongside this, 24/7 service, bespoke treatment plans and access to the most advanced technology are also good to know about. We’re proud to offer all of these, at CRGH.
11 Can you provide a full cost break-down?
Once you and your consultant have pinned down a treatment plan, you should be given itemised costing, to review at your own pace. And if you have any questions about this, your clinic should be on hand to help.
12 Are costs subject to change, during my treatment?
This varies from clinic to clinic, and depending on the plan you’re going for. Ask the question upfront though, to avoid any surprises once you’ve started.
13 If I have a question, how do I contact the clinic or my consultant?
It’s amazing how many clinics don’t make this completely clear! Often, treatment conversations can leave everyone with so much to think about, the logistics get missed. So do ask the question, and get everyone’s contact details safely stored.
At CRGH, as well as the usual phone and email contact details, we have an out-of-hours phone line for clinical support, and the patient portal – a treatment management system where you can access information and test results, appointment and medication reminders, make payments and message directly with our team.
14 Can I get an overview or summary of my treatment plan?
Again, before you leave the clinic, you should be able to get a run-through of your plan, or your team should follow-up with notes on what’s been discussed.
At CRGH, once a treatment plan is agreed you’ll sit down with a nurse to talk through each step.
15 What are the next steps?
Speaking of steps – make sure this final question is your top priority! Knowing who’s doing what, any ‘actions’ needed from you and a date for your next chat or first round of tests, treatment, etc. helps you feel like the journey is underway. So leave with next steps fully agreed and follow-ups booked, before a well-deserved coffee, and chat with your partner, friends or support network.
Connect with the amazing CRGH team, book your place on an open evening and get to know why the clinic consistently publishes outstanding success rates.