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Finding a Fertility Specialist

In order for gynecologists to become reproductive endocrinologists (REs) devoted specifically to treating infertility, they must complete a two to three-year fellowship in infertility treatment, followed by two more years of clinical experience. They must also pass a series of oral and written exams. Once they have done so, they become "board certified" by the American Board of Medical Specialties, the highest level of achievement in the field of infertility. There are about 780 Board Certified RE's in the US. Another 100 are "board eligible," meaning they are in the process of completing their clinical experience and have not yet taken the oral exam.

How do I choose a fertility specialist?

Once you've made the decision to consult a specialist, you might want to consider talking to your regular physician or OB/GYN first, as she may be able to refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist that she knows and trusts. A referral from another physician is one of the quickest and best ways to find a doctor.

Another way to look for a specialist is on your own, starting your search from scratch. This may seem like a daunting task, but there are several resources available for you to utilize. RESOLVE, Inc., the National Infertility Association, publishes a helpful tip sheet on selecting an infertility specialist. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine can provide you with a list of physicians who have expressed an interest in fertility treatment. In addition, the Endometriosis Association can help you find an experienced specialist if you are struggling with endometriosis-related infertility. While membership in the organization doesn't certify a doctor's fertility treatment competency, it is a good place to start.

You might also wonder whether you should consult with a private physician or go to a large fertility clinic. A private physician can treat most fertility problems; the additional skills and expertise provided by large clinics are only needed in about 10 percent of cases. Some couples who have gone to large clinics have complained that they felt isolated and anonymous, not receiving much of the physician's personal time. If you'd like more personal attention, a private practice may be a better choice for you. One of the positive aspects of large clinics is that they provide services that many smaller organizations do not, such as on-site X-ray and testing laboratories and counseling and support groups. But the decision is up to you. Before you decide to go with a clinic, be sure to ask for the CDC report on their success rates. You can use these statistics as a starting point for your research. Below are some additional questions you might want to ask about a particular clinic's success rates.

  • How many babies have been born as a result of your procedures?
  • How many of them were born to women ages 30-39? 40 and over?
  • How many treatment cycles have been initiated here in the past two years?
  • How many deliveries were multiple births?

In addition to questions regarding success rates, the questions below can be used to assist you in the interview process with a particular clinic about cost, convenience and services.

  • What procedures are offered by the clinic?
  • How many Board Certified reproductive endocrinologists are on staff?
  • Is there a laboratory on-site?
  • Does the clinic offer counseling?
  • Is the clinic affiliated with a hospital?
  • Is the clinic open on weekends? Does it offer extended hours?
  • How much does treatment cost, including drugs and lab work?
  • What insurance plans are accepted?
  • How are payments structured?
  • Do you prepare a treatment plan for your patients?

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