By Keiko Zoll
The reality of being an infertility patient is that you can expect many visits to the doctor, no matter in what stage of your infertility journey you may be. For me, in the diagnostic phase, I was at my doctor as often as every four to six weeks as we tried to pinpoint my diagnosis together. Often times, when you’re trying to schedule your infertility-related appointments, you’re juggling time away from work, so it’s important to make the most of your time there with your doctor.
With the frequency at which I was seeing a variety of doctors, I practically had my own elevator speech about my diagnosis and current needs. It’s important to me that when I walk into my doctor’s office – whether it’s my RE, my primary, or even my chiropractor – that I come in with not just a list of questions, but a set of goals. I don’t leave until I have both answers and a plan. I’m not just an informed patient.
When it comes to building my family, I’m a motivated patient.
As my doctors’ appointments increase as we move forward with our first IVF cycle, I find it more and more important to remain organized and efficient. Here are some of my strategies for making the most out of my doctors’ visits. And while these tips can apply to appointments with any doctor, they’re especially helpful if you’re meeting with a group of doctors for your fertility treatments.
1. Do your homework.
Dr. Google can be both trusted friend and vile enemy while going through infertility. It’s easy to get sucked into the self-diagnosis internet vortex, so I make the recommendation to use Dr. Google sparingly. Familiarize yourself with terms, protocols and other treatment or diagnosis-related terminology simply to give yourself a working vocabulary when you get in the doctor’s office. If you’re thinking about suggesting the addition of complementary or alternative treatments to your doctor, you’ll definitely want to make sure you have reliable, credible research or information to make your case.
2. Break out that Trapper-Keeper.
Or a five-subject notebook. Or just a notepad. Me? I like taking notes on my iPad. Whatever your note-taking medium of choice, make sure you have a dedicated space for all of your notes. You’ll want to be able to quickly reference them not just when you’re in your doctor’s office, but later on when the inevitable question you forgot to ask comes to you after you get home (more on that in point 4).
A binder is an excellent way to keep your notes organized as well, as you can also keep track of receipts, test results and protocol handouts your clinic might give you. You can even keep one section just for your primary doctor and another for your RE, allowing you to flip back and forth to reference the other’s opinions and advice when meeting with either. Whatever you use to keep track of your notes, make sure you don’t leave the house without it when headed to any appointment.
3. Don’t just ask questions; set goals.
I find this particularly helpful in preparing for my annual physical. I jot down a quick list of where I’m at medically at the time of the appointment and what my health and wellness goals are for the immediate and long-term future. Only then do I start to write down any questions, as these goals help guide what questions to ask. This same strategy is also helpful when dealing with fertility-related appointments.
Take stock of how you’re doing physically and emotionally. Are you experiencing any side effects from new medications? Anxiety about a pending cycle? Write all of this down and then set a couple of goals for yourself, either for the next couple of weeks of your treatment or even just a goal you have for the appointment itself. Then, during the appointment, jot down questions as they come up in your notes and be sure to ask them before you leave.
Make sure you don’t leave your doctor’s office until you feel that both your goals will be met (or at least have a plan in place) and all your questions answered.
4. Know your plan for “l’espirit d’escalier.”
The French have a lovely term for the moment when you remember your witty comeback well after the moment has passed to say it: “l’espirit d’escalier – literally, “staircase wit.” I find the term is appropriate for the question that you meant to ask while you were there, but now you’re already driving on the highway home. For all my note-taking and preparation, there’s always one question I remember in the car after virtually every doctor’s appointment.
It helps to know how responsive your clinic is in this instance. Can you get a direct line to your doctor or do you have to speak to a nurse first? Does your doctor respond directly to emails instead? You might even be able to make that phone call to your clinic right on the ride home, but remember – you won’t be able to reference or take notes if it’s a complicated question. (You know, that whole driving thing.)
Also consider the urgency of your question, too: do you need an answer right away or can it wait until your next appointment? In the latter instance, call your own voicemail and leave yourself a message so you can jot it down in your notes when you get out of the car.
How do you stay organized for your doctors’ appointments? What tips and strategies do you use when you walk into your doctor’s office to make the most of our your time there?
Keiko Zoll is an infertility and women’s health writer. She blogs at The Infertility Voice and you can follow her on Twitter @KeikoZoll.