6 Tips to Prepare for Your First Fertility Clinic Appointment Through a Diverse and Inclusive Lens

Are you taking the first step to possibly starting fertility treatments and feeling a little overwhelmed? Don’t worry, you’ll rarely see anyone starting this process who doesn’t feel that way. Maybe you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a long time, or you know that fertility treatment is your only option when it comes to family planning. Whatever happens, there can be a lot of stress and anxiety as you begin this journey. To add, if the importance of diversity and inclusivity is a requirement in your decision-making process, there are a few additional factors to consider as you prepare for your first appointment to ensure that the clinic you choose is tailored to your specific needs.

There has been some progress when it comes to providing more culturally competent care in fertility clinics, but there is still room to grow in reducing barriers and limitations to improve quality, inclusive care. The emotional toll is likely to be difficult when it’s time to move forward with fertility treatments, but for the Black and Brown community, as well as LGBTQIA+ individuals, the experience can be isolating because of the differences associated with on race, stigma, limited accessibility, and barriers to treatment.

A few things to remember about your first appointment. This is usually a time when there will be a lot of discussion about your lifestyle, medical history, and talking about what options are best for you and your partner (if applicable). Gathering information is the general theme for the first appointment. It is best to bring your medical records or send them to the clinic for their review before your first visit, if possible. Appointments are usually long; say maybe an hour or an hour and a half, so be prepared and make sure you set aside some time so you’re not rushed.

If you haven’t chosen a clinic yet, here are some tips for you as you begin to explore culturally competent and inclusive clinics:

  1. Get Referrals: Whether it’s a friend, family member, neighbor, or colleague, getting a referral from someone who has had a positive experience with a fertility clinic, particularly from someone with a similar family planning background or journey, will be the best. you can choose. Searching online is of course a great tool, but someone with personal experience is key to getting detailed information about how things are done at your clinic of interest. Ask them about how they were treated, supported, as well as their comfort level throughout their experience there.
  2. Fertility Clinics Research: Go to the clinic’s website and see if there are people shown who look like you. Pay attention to the language used throughout – is it inclusive? Read their mission statement and note if they emphasize diversity, equity, and inclusion. If you are on social media, say Facebook for example, there are often private groups you can join that are specific to your location, where you can see other people’s experiences with clinics that interest you. You can share anonymously, read through people’s reviews, or search for any information you’re looking for. Also, many of the fertility clinic websites have patient stories – see if anyone speaks to you or sounds familiar with your experience. There should be a sense of belonging that you begin to feel through your search.
  3. If using insurance, check out the benefits: Usually, clinic staff will verify your benefits if you use insurance. To reduce any stress or anxiety arising from the scope of fertility treatments, it is best to investigate this before proceeding to make your first appointment. Unfortunately, the definition of infertility is still not an inclusive definition, as it is defined by not being able to conceive after one year of trying to conceive without pregnancy, or six months if you are 35 or older old man It is a barrier to family planning that does not make room for LGBTQIA+ couples, nor does it allow single parents. The definition speaks only to heterosexual, cis-gender individuals. Find out what options you have through your insurance before starting. This may also be a time to talk to your employer about the benefits offered at your company. Sometimes this is exactly what is needed – employees speaking up and advocating for fertility benefits, or more included
  4. Prepare Questions and Continue Asking: Prepare questions before your first appointment and throughout your treatment process. Be sure to include questions about treatment options, costs, success rates, and risks. If you choose to move forward with fertility treatments, there will be questions that will continue to arise. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your appointments, send an email, or make a phone call. It’s ok to ask questions and learn more before making a decision. When creating your list of questions, think about questions that are relevant to you. Here are some suggestions:
    • Are you familiar with medical conditions experienced by Black and Brown people that affect infertility? Black women are 3 times more likely to develop fibroids and at least twice as likely to have their uterus removed by hysterectomy. Uterine fibroids, preeclampsia, and PCOS are other common medical conditions in the BIPOC community. Blacks are twice as likely to experience infertility as Whites, but are less likely to receive care. It is important for your doctor and the team to understand the medical conditions that are common for different cultural backgrounds, and for you to feel that you are receiving quality, culturally competent care.
    • Is there anyone here who speaks a language other than English fluently? Individuals who speak other languages ​​often find that their doctors lack cultural sensitivity, which can lead to increased stress and anxiety stemming from communication challenges.
    • Do you have experience using third-party reproduction? Third-party reproduction is when there is assistance in forming families with a gestational carrier, donor sperm, donated embryo, or donor egg. It is commonly used for family planning with LGBTQIA+ communities.
    • Does your clinic have referrals/relationships with attorneys to help navigate the legal process, if necessary? When using egg, sperm, or embryo donors, as well as gestational carriers or surrogates, there are often legal contracts involved, so for peace of mind, working with a clinic to help with this process can be helpful. or who already has those connections. to you and one less obstacle to your treatment processes
  5. Self Advocacy: Questioning leads to number 5., self-advocacy. I’ll say it now and I don’t want you to forget this important tip: Self-Advocacy is very important and will be needed throughout. The sooner you learn and understand how to communicate your needs, feelings, limitations, and speak up for yourself, the more empowered you will feel, allowing you to take an active role in your treatment process. You want to make sure that your unique needs are met and that there is effective communication with the team so that you can continue to ask questions and maintain an open dialogue. It’s okay to talk. It’s ok to promote your own health and well-being. It’s your right and your responsibility, so keep participating.
  6. Seek therapy or counseling: Taking this step in your family planning process can bring up a variety of emotions, which can be very difficult to manage. Consider seeking therapy or counseling to help you cope with the emotional aspects of this part of your journey. There are many specialists who work with clients who use Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART), which is the category under which fertility treatments fall. It may be helpful to talk to someone who is familiar with the process and has experience working with your population. If you’re part of an underrepresented or marginalized group, getting mental health support can help give you a safe space to process everything you’re going through.

Go to that first fertility appointment prepared so you can feel empowered and take an active role in your fertility treatment journey. If it doesn’t feel right to you, trust that feeling. It’s ok to get a second, third, or fourth opinion. Put your needs first and only move forward with a clinic that you feel is right for you. There will be hope and fear at that first appointment. That’s normal. Taking the first step to make an appointment is huge, even if it’s scary. There are many fertility clinics out there that provide culturally competent and inclusive care, so keep looking until you find the right fit.

Author Bio: Kendra A. Vargas (she), LCPC, PMH-C, is a culturally responsive psychotherapist and fellow, clinical supervisor, consultant, and infertility trainer. She has 10 years of experience in the mental health field and has practiced in a variety of settings, including community mental health and private practice.

Kendra specializes in perinatal mental health and holds a Perinatal Mental Health Certificate through Postpartum Support International. Kendra is the founder of Authentic You Psychotherapy, a solo practice where she provides individual therapy and group therapy services. She runs an ongoing Fertility Skills and Support Group for women using Assisted Reproductive Technologies such as IUI and IVF, which is an area she has a deep, personal connection and compassion for.

Keywords: fertility, infertility, fertility treatments, postpartum, mental health, grief, trauma, hormonal changes, support, trying to conceive, TTC, IVF, pregnancy, loss, diversity, inclusion

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