How to choose a fertility specialist

Fertility treatment is physically and emotionally demanding, and depending on your needs it can be expensive, so it’s important to find a clinic and doctor that’s right for you. You can ask your GP for advice about choosing a fertility specialist but you can also do your own research before committing to a doctor and clinic. Here’s some information to consider.

Clinics vary a lot

There are many types of clinics that operate in different ways. For example, some clinics are set up to cater specifically for same-sex couples, so they may be more equipped for donor egg or sperm treatment and surrogacy.

There are also low-cost clinics that offer limited treatments for people with a capped budget. If you want to choose one of these clinics, ask whether they offer treatments that will meet your medical needs and level of complexity.  

Doctors work in different ways

As with any medical treatment, it’s important to find a doctor who makes you feel comfortable. Fertility treatment is complex, so try to find a doctor who explains things well and who listens to you, so you feel truly informed.

Before committing to a doctor, you may want to ask if they will be doing all your consultations and procedures such as egg pick-up procedures and embryo transfers. At some clinics there may be a roster of doctors for procedures, so you may see another doctor from time to time.

Qualifications vary

You will likely find different types of doctors at various clinics. For example, some clinics employ GPs to do initial consultations with you before you see a qualified fertility specialist. At other clinics you will only see a qualified fertility specialist.

Most fertility specialists are gynaecologists and obstetricians who have done extra training in assisted reproductive treatment. Some will have done the CREI (Certificate in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility) and some have special areas of interest. For example, if you are a man with a fertility problem, you may want to visit a clinic with access to an andrologist (male reproductive health specialist). 

You can check a health professional’s registration and additional qualifications on the AHPRA website.

Questions you can ask clinics

  • How much does it cost for an IVF cycle and embryo transfer after Medicare reimbursement?
  • What is covered by Medicare and private health insurance and what is not?
  •  What other treatments may I need to pay for and how much do they cost after Medicare reimbursement?
  • IVF can be complex. It involves a team of people including nurses, pharmacists, embryologists, counsellors and doctors performing different roles. How many people will be managing my treatment and how many people will communicate with me at different stages of the process? Is it possible to have one or two people consistently communicating with me?
  • How frequently will I need to attend the clinic for visits during an IVF cycle? (You may want to consider a location close to home or your workplace).
  • Where do you perform procedures such as egg pick-up operations? (You may want to consider a location close to home).
  • What can I expect from my clinic if I am unsuccessful? Do you provide free counselling when cycles don’t go well or if I don’t get pregnant?
  • Are there processes for me to provide feedback about my treatment and experience along the way?

Questions you can ask your doctor

  • Are there lifestyle changes I can make to improve my chance of a baby with or without IVF? (This applies to both men and women).
  • What is my individual chance of success and how many cycles of IVF am I likely to need to have a baby?
  • How will you communicate with me if you think I have a low chance of success or feel it’s best for me to stop IVF?

In addition to IVF or ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), clinics sometimes offer optional extras. VARTA recommends you ask the following five “Choosing Wisely” questions to help you make informed decisions:

  1. Do I really need this test, treatment or procedure?
  2. What are the risks?
  3. Are there simpler, safer options?
  4. What happens if I don’t do anything?
  5. What are the costs?