After trying to conceive for a couple months with no luck, you may be wondering when you should visit a fertility clinic. The answer depends on several factors: your age, how long you’ve been trying to get pregnant, and whether you have any underlying reproductive health issues.
If you’re under age 35, healthy, and have been trying to conceive for one year, it’s time to schedule a consultation with a fertility specialist. For women over age 35 (who are healthy), the recommended time frame is after 6 months of trying to conceive without success.
Of course, there are other factors that can affect your ability to get pregnant, so if you experience or (or have in the past) any of the following, it’s best to see a fertility doctor sooner rather than later:
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- A thyroid condition
- Very low or very high body mass index (your weight can impact your hormones and reproductive functions)
- No periods or irregular periods
- Multiple miscarriages
- Pelvic pain
- Any chronic medical conditions like diabetes or hypertension
- A family history of early menopause
That’s a lot of exceptions but, when it comes to fertility, the sooner you identify the problem, the easier it will be to find a solution.
This brings us to the big question: how do you choose a fertility clinic?
Choosing a fertility clinic isn’t like picking the best laundry detergent or deciding on a restaurant for dinner. It’s a big decision and one that can make or break your plans to get pregnant — and, potentially, your bank account.
But choosing a great fertility clinic doesn’t have to be stressful and you don’t have to compromise on the things that are most important to you. Read on to learn how to choose the best fertility clinic possible.
How to Choose a Fertility Clinic
There are a lot of factors that play into choosing a fertility clinic. You’ll want to know more about the doctors who will be treating you, how the clinic runs, and how much treatments will cost. You also want to make sure you feel comfortable — undergoing fertility treatments of any kind can be stressful, so finding a clinic that makes you feel at ease is key.
Research each fertility clinic you’re considering
Maybe a friend referred you to a clinic that she used and loved. Perhaps a web search returned a list of clinics with potential. No matter who referred you or where you found a clinic, it’s important that you do your own research so you can be the best advocate possible for your fertility.
Check online reviews
For the sake of objectivity, it’s best to find reviews that aren’t hosted on the fertility clinics website. While testimonials they post may be helpful and encouraging, you really want to get a good idea of any negative feedback that past patients have left on third-party review sites like Google or Yelp. These types of reviews are often far more informative than any the clinic would post themselves.
Get to know the fertility clinic
Once you’re ready to really narrow down your options, it’s time to ask some serious questions. Here are some of the things you should know before you ever step foot inside the fertility clinic:
- What type of clinic is it? — There are many different types of fertility clinics, from sole practitioners and small practices (with 2 to 8 member physicians) to larger, full-service practices, to university- or hospital- based clinics. No one is inherently better than the other but different sized practices will each have their own pros and cons.
- Which types of fertility treatments does the clinic offer? — In vitro fertilization (IVF) is one of the most expensive types of fertility treatments and some clinics may push for it harder than other, less pricey options. Many women don’t need IVF to get pregnant — sometimes all it takes is a fertility drug with timed intercourse. That being said, find out all the types of fertility treatments each clinic offers.
- Does the clinic specialize in one type of fertility treatment or working with one demographic over another? — If you’re over 40, have a reproductive condition like PCOS, or have had multiple miscarriages, you may want to look for a clinic that specializes in treating patients with similar struggles.
- Are you going to be treated by one doctor or a whole team? — In smaller fertility clinics, you’ll probably be seen by one doctor for the entire course of your fertility treatment. Larger practices may assign multiple doctors to one patient. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so it really boils down to personal preference.
- Where did the fertility specialist(s) go to school? — Check to make sure that the doctor treating you when to a credible university. While this usually won’t be an issue, it never hurts to check.
- How long have they been treating infertility? — This is a big one. While dealing with the physical and emotional struggles of infertility, you’ll want to have a doctor who knows what they’re doing.
- How long have they been at the clinic? — High turnover at a fertility clinic can mean that it’s not a great work environment. If this is the case, don’t believe for one second that the workplace turmoil won’t spill over into your experience as a patient. If doctors, nurses, or other staff don’t stay at the clinic long, keep looking.
- Which types of doctor are on staff? — Depending on the type of fertility treatments you need, you’ll want to know which types of doctors are available to you at any clinic. These doctors may include reproductive endocrinologists, andrologists, reproductive immunologists
Understand fertility clinic success rates
Success rates are easily the most important factor in choosing a fertility clinic. However, not all metrics are useful. Before judging a clinic based on the success rates they advertise, it’s important to take a critical look at which fertility treatment success rates actually matter and how those rates are impacted by external factors outside of the clinic’s control. For example, the best treatment in the world may not be successful if the woman’s body can not maintain a healthy pregnancy.
One of the main questions you’ll want to ask a potential fertility clinic is “how many successful births have your patients had?” What this metric tells you is not how many people got pregnant but how many people went home with babies — which is your ultimate goal.
How to find an affordable fertility clinic
Of course, “affordable” is subjective — what one person may be able to afford easily can be entirely out of reach for another. Since fertility treatments usually require a hefty financial investment, it’s important to do your research ahead of time.
Some financial factors to consider when choosing a fertility clinic include:
Does my insurance plan offer coverage for fertility treatments?
While infertility is considered a pre-existing condition (meaning an insurer can’t deny you coverage because you deal with infertility), not all insurance plans cover fertility treatments. In fact, only 15 states have laws that require insurance coverage for fertility treatments. You can check to see the laws in your state using this tool from Resolve.
The next step is to find out exactly what is and isn’t covered by your insurance company. To do this, you’ll want to call your insurance company directly and ask for a document that explains which parts of fertility treatment are covered.
Even if your insurance does cover some of your fertility treatments, chances are high that you’ll pay at least some of the cost out-of-pocket. To make sure you’re financially prepared, call your insurance and ask:
- What your co-pay is
- If there is a co-insurance amount you’re required to pay
- If you need preauthorization from your primary physician to see a fertility specialist
- If there are any procedures/services that are explicitly not covered
Does the fertility clinic accept my insurance?
If you do have insurance that covers fertility treatments, you’ll need to verify that the clinics you’re looking at accept your insurance. Even if the clinic takes your insurance, the doctor you see may not, so it’s important to ask up front which doctors are in-network (meaning that they accept your insurance plan, so you won’t be paying entirely out-of-pocket).
What does each fertility treatment cost?
Even if your insurance does cover fertility treatments, it’s smart to know exactly what each fertility clinic charges for each type of treatment you may receive. This allows you to calculate how much you may end up paying out-of-pocket. Before you even go into the clinic, you should be able to find out what the costs are for each type of service. Don’t let it go at that, though. You don’t want to end up with surprise bills, so be sure to ask what the quoted prices include. For example, the price for IVF may include the treatment itself but doesn’t include the additional fee for a follow-up consultation. Ideally, any clinic you choose will be transparent with their prices.
Other financial questions to ask
The financial aspect of fertility treatments at a clinic is very complex. In addition to checking to make sure your insurance covers fertility treatments, that the clinic you’re interested in accepts your insurance, and what is and is not covered, here are some things to look into that can help you get the best care for your money:
- Ask if they offer free initial consults
- Ask if they offer financial aid
- Ask about financing
- Find out if your employer offers fertility benefits
- See if they offer refunds for treatments that aren’t successful
Am I choosing the right fertility clinic?
There is a lot of information out there that can influence which fertility clinic you choose. While it’s helpful to get advice on such a big decision, the most important thing you can do is listen to your gut. Ask all the questions you want and listen to their answers but also pay attention to how they make you feel. Fertility treatments can take a toll on your body and your heart, so finding a clinic that makes you feel safe and comfortable is key.