Going through fertility treatments may make you feel like you’re constantly making tough decisions: Should you fill your family in on what’s going on? Do you have the energy to RSVP ‘yes’ to a friend’s baby shower? Are you ready to take the initial step and see a doctor at all?
One of the most difficult choices, however, comes after you’ve been trying for a baby for some time with no success. How do you know when it’s time to switch fertility clinics?
First things first: It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions after an unsuccessful round of a fertility treatment. “The emotional response to infertility treatment failure can range from disappointment, despair, anger, frustration, and grief—or some or all of them,” Dr. Edward Marut of Fertility Centers of Illinois says. “The more failures, the stronger the reaction. Support by the physician, staff, and mental health specialists is critical to either continue or halt treatment.”
As you’re taking stock of your emotions, you may find it’s time to decide what your next steps are. Here are some signs it’s time to move on from your fertility clinic.
Your Priorities Have Changed
When deciding if you want to move on, remind yourself of the criteria that helped you decide where to go for help in the first place.
“Think about what’s important to you as an individual,” says Lisa Rosenthal, patient advocate at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut. Some may want a high pregnancy rate, others may care about lab capability, while others may crave a personal connection and good chemistry with their doctor. “Bottom line: Everyone wants to get pregnant, but also bottom line, everybody tends to need a slightly different experience,” Rosenthal says.
As your journey continues, your priorities may shift and you decide that something that didn’t matter to you at first—whether it was the lack of ancillary services like a nutritionist or acupuncturist, or a personality mismatch with a doctor or the clinic’s staff —becomes more important over time. Same goes for things that mattered a lot at first but may not be a central concern later on.
Communication Has Broken Down
You’ve heard that communication is key for your friendships and romantic relationships; the same applies to your dynamic with your doctor, according to Marut.
“Patients should realize that if they are not getting answers for the failures or are not given reasonable options moving forward, they need to ask around,” he says.
Chemistry with your doctor can also be judged by how responsive she and her team are to your questions and requests, and whether you feel they are listening to you.Chemistry with your doctor can also be judged by how responsive she and her team are to your questions and requests, and whether you feel they are listening to you. “If you are consistently having difficulty contacting your medical team, you feel communication is not ideal, or your team is not responsive enough for you, then changing your fertility practice should be considered,” Dr. Aaron K. Styer, reproductive endocrinologist, the founding partner, and co-medical director of CCRM Boston, says.
Communication is particularly critical when it comes to failed cycles—it’s not enough to just move right on to the next attempt. “In the case of many unsuccessful attempts, you should ensure that your physician has reviewed the most recent failed cycles and takes the time to meet with you (via phone or in person) to discuss possible reasons why the past treatment [or treatments] failed and how future treatments can be changed and individualized to your specific circumstance to improve your chances for success,” Styer says.
An Egregious Mistake Is Made
Throughout the medical process, you may find that a doctor or medical professional has made an error in care, whether it’s a slip-up in treatment or information that has slipped through the cracks. Though, of course, accidents happen, you should watch how the clinic handles it—and anything less than full transparency should be a reason for you to sever ties with a facility.
“It’s really time to change practices when you have concerns that are not being addressed; when you’re getting no answers,” Rosenthal says. “[It’s also time to move on] when an egregious mistake is made.”
Any mistake that is “not explained or supported or is covered up” is likely cause to move on, according to Rosenthal.
You Feel Hopeless
It’s common to feel disappointment or defeat when going through fertility struggles, but you may want to consider switching fertility clinics if you don’t feel that your practice is helping you get through the tough times, Rosenthal says.
“It’s time to change practices when you feel hopeless,” Rosenthal says. “It’s not unusual after your seventh IVF failing to feel hopeless, but the truth is that for those in a good fertility program, you have a certain amount of hope. Even if 99% of you feels depressed, discouraged, and defeated, there’s that 1% of hope that keeps you walking in the door. But you want that hope to be fostered in a realistic and compassionate way by that practice.”
Examine whether the services provided by your practice and your relationship with your physician and his team make you feel supported enough to feel positive about your next steps.
You Need A Fresh Start
Even if a practice fit your goals perfectly at the start of your journey, your diagnosis or medical needs may require a change—and you shouldn’t feel guilty for moving along if it’s what you need to do. “As a doctor, I always want my patients to do well,” Dr. Brian Levine, founding partner and practice director of CCRM New York, says. “[If a patient wants to switch clinics] I’m not going to take it personally.”
Though, of course, accidents happen, you should watch how the clinic handles it—and anything less than full transparency should be a reason for you to sever ties with a facility.If you’re at a clinic that isn’t providing services that you need or treatments that are necessary in the next step of your fertility journey, then it might be time to look elsewhere (even if you’ve developed a strong rapport with your doctor and her staff).
“Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” Levine says. “If you’ve really exhausted the resources of a clinic—personal resources, lab resources, [or] if you’re not getting the time and attention you deserve—then it might be time to switch.”
And what happens if you’re feeling guilty about departing? It’s important to put your feelings aside and rationally examine when it’s time to go. “An irrational connection to a doctor may cause a patient to stay beyond a reasonable time; don’t let emotions get in the way of good fertility care,” says Marut.
And…What to Consider When You Look Elsewhere
You might “jump ship” simply to get a second opinion or to truly move forward with new, different guidance.
Once you decide you’re going to work with another fertility clinic, what should you do? Ask your current clinic for a copy of your official records. Also, organize any information you’ve collected about the process from your own files, according to Levine. (He actually recommends having a copy of your medical records and keeping a chronological history of each step in your journey for everyone going through this process.)
“The most important thing is to be a good historian,” Levine says.
Also, keep in mind that going for a second opinion doesn’t mean you have to switch practices, Rosenthal says. “Basically, you consider a second opinion when you want to hear a confirming or disproving analysis of your chances—not a person your age group [or] your diagnosis, but your particular chances—of having a child after failed cycles,” she says.
And though the process is highly personal and individual, remember that your doctor shouldn’t take it personally if you think you’ll be better served elsewhere. “Overall, don’t be scared to switch clinics,” Levine says. “Doctors take an oath…we just want to help patients.”
Kelsey Butler is a reporter and editor based in New Jersey. She has written for health and lifestyle publications including Women's Health and Brides. In her spare time, you can find her on the bocce court, collecting souvenir pennies, binging “Law & Order: SVU” episodes and hiking with her dog, Sonny.
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