Appointments at fertility clinics can be overwhelming. These appointments are fraught with emotions—infertility and pregnancy loss can be incredibly painful both physically and emotionally—and sometimes these emotions and the uncertainty of what we’re going through can make it difficult to advocate for ourselves in these stressful conversations.
The doctors may be experts, but we can advocate for ourselves when we speak with them. We can stand up for our needs, ask questions, and demand options and second opinions.
Years ago, in my first few appointments at my fertility clinic, I didn’t do this. I didn’t advocate for myself. I didn’t call out insensitive comments or ask questions. I just took what the doctor said as fact. I can’t help but wonder, if I’d advocated for myself then, would we have found the root of my infertility sooner? Would I have a baby in my arms by now?
So how do you advocate for yourself in your fertility appointments? Here are a few ways.
Write down your questions ahead of time and bring that notebook with you.
How many times have you gone to a medical appointment with a list of questions in your brain and then completely blanked when the doctor said, “Any questions?” as they started to wrap the appointment up?
There’s a better way.
Go shopping, find yourself a notebook that makes you smile. Maybe it’s your favourite colour or has a design that reminds you of your last vacation. Choose something that you’ll want to keep nearby and use regularly.
Make that notebook your fertility notebook.
- Use it as a place to jot down any questions that pop into your head as you prepare for your fertility appointment.
- Use it to note any physical symptoms or concerns during your treatments.
- Bring that notebook with you to your appointment and use it as a reminder of what you wanted to ask.
- During or after your appointment, write down what your doctor said, your thoughts or feelings about it, and any important dates or instructions.
- Repeat as necessary.
Ask for what you need.
Doctor’s appointments, especially with specialists, can be intimidating. But you are the patient, which means you are the client, which means you are the most important person in the room, and you run the show. It’s all about you. What you need should always be the focus of the conversation.
It can be easy for doctors to forget that. They’re focused on getting through their to-do list, seeing all their patients, and making it to the end of the day. Sometimes they forget that this is incredibly personal for you. It’s okay to remind them. It’s okay to bring them back to focusing on your needs.
Do you need clarification? Go ahead and ask, “Can you explain that in another way? I want to make sure I understand.”
Do you need more details? Go ahead and ask, “What do you mean by that?” or “Why do you think that?”
Do you want another test or a second opinion? Go ahead and ask, “I’d like to do bloodwork again to see if anything has changed from last time. When can we schedule that?” Or “When can we do a sonohysterogram so we can get a better look at my uterus?” Or even, “I’d like another doctor’s opinion. How can that be arranged?”
Feel free to write these confident requests in your notebook so that you have language to use that is respectful but strong.
Infertility appointments can be difficult to endure and to understand. Remember that you are the most important person in the room—that you’re the reason the appointment is happening.
The knowledge that you have the right to ask for what you need and having notes and pre-written questions in your infertility notebook can help you feel confident advocating for yourself.
Remember, at every fertility appointment, you are the most important person in that room.