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Preparing for your clinic appointment

Your first time at a clinic can feel a bit daunting. Find out how to prepare for your first appointment and what to expect at a licensed UK clinic.

Is there anything I can do to prepare for my first clinic appointment?

It’s natural to feel a bit apprehensive before attending your first clinic appointment. But remember that your clinic has your best interests at heart. They’ll have supported many women and men through the same process you’re going through and will hopefully understand how daunting and new this whole experience is for you.

At the clinic, don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to. You (or the NHS) are paying for a service and it’s the clinics responsibility to ensure you understand and are comfortable with everything that’s happening.

You should also take your time to think through any decisions that need to be made, and get advice or support from alternative sources if you need to. Never feel pressured to rush into a decision that you’re not 100% happy with.

Questions to ask at the clinic

Some questions you might want to ask at the clinic include:

  • What are the benefits of the treatment you've recommended and why do you think it's the best option for me?
  • How many patients at your clinic have had this treatment, and how many of them have become pregnant/had a baby?
  • Are there alternative treatments? If so, what do they involve, and why do you think they are less suitable for me?
  • What other options are available to me if this treatment doesn't work?
  • How does my age affect the choice of fertility treatment?
  • What drugs will I have to take and what are the usual side effects they might have?
  • Are there any alternatives to the drugs you have mentioned?
  • Can you break down all the costs involved in this treatment? Are there any other costs that might arise? (Your clinic should provide you with a costed treatment plan.)
  • What lifestyle changes can I make to boost my chance of success (eg, diet, exercise, stopping smoking)? How will these help?
  • Is there a cost for counselling, or how many free sessions can I have?
  • Does this clinic have a patient support group I can join, or are there other groups you would recommend?
  • Could you tell me more about the assessment process you will need to carry out before giving me the go ahead for treatment (this is sometimes known as the ‘welfare of the child' assessment)?
  • What happens next? Do I (and/or my partner) need to do anything now?

Your clinic is required by law to offer you counselling

What can I expect at the clinic?

When you start treatment at a clinic, what happens next will depend on your circumstances. In many cases you’ll start treatment straight away but in others you may be given further fertility tests if your existing tests haven’t identified the cause of infertility. These tests can include:

For women

  • A full hormone profile taken between days two to four of your period to assess for any hormone imbalance.
  • Blood tests to find out if you are ovulating. 
  • An ultrasound scan to look at your uterus and ovaries.
  • Follicle tracking – a series of ultrasound scans to follow the development of a follicle to see if an egg is developing.
  • Hysterosalpingogram – an x-ray to check your fallopian tubes.
  • Laparoscopy – an operation in which a dye is injected through your cervix as the pelvis is inspected via a telescope (laparoscope) with a tiny camera attached to check for tubal blockage.
  • Hysteroscopy – a telescope with a camera attached is used to view your uterus to check for conditions such as fibroids or polyps.
  • Hysterosalpingo-contrast sonography (HyCoSy) – a vaginal ultrasound probe is used to check the fallopian tubes for blockages.
  • Occasionally, a tissue sample may be taken from the lining of your womb to be analysed.

For men

  • Semen analysis to check sperm numbers and quality.
  • Sperm antibody test to check for protein molecules that may prevent sperm from fertilising an egg.

Find out more about fertility tests on the NHS Choices website

In 25% of cases the cause of infertility is unknown. It can understandably be frustrating not knowing what the problem is and how to fix it but sadly fertility treatment isn’t an exact science. How you handle this is up to you: some people prefer to let their consultant make decisions in their best interests whilst others like to do as much research as possible into their situation so they can make decisions about how to move forward jointly with their treating clinician.

What health tests will I need to have?

Before having treatment, everyone involved must have health checks to prevent certain serious conditions from being passed onto the mother or child. You’ll be tested for: 

  • HIV 1 and 2 (Anti-HIV – 1, 2)
  • Hepatitis B: (HBsAg/Anti-HBc)
  • Hepatitis C: (Anti-HCV-Ab)

If you’ve travelled recently you may also be tested for infectious diseases such as malaria so make sure you let your clinic know about any recent trips abroad.

You should tell your clinic if you’ve recently travelled abroad

What does giving ‘consent to treatment’ mean?

Before treatment can take place, your clinic should help you to complete a number of consent forms to ensure your sperm, eggs, embryos and personal information are used in a way that you’re happy with. You should take the time to understand exactly what you’re giving consent to and that you’ve thought through all the implications.

It’s possible for you to withdraw your consent providing your eggs, sperm and embryos haven’t already been used in treatment, research or training (depending on what you consented to.) Your partner or donor can also change or withdraw their consent at any time until their eggs, sperm or embryos have been used in treatment. If that happens you wouldn’t be able to continue with treatment, even if the embryos have been jointly created with your eggs or sperm.  

Find out more about giving consent

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Review date: 8 November 2019