I remember sitting in the hospital lounge that morning, waiting for my number to get called; it was my first fertility appointment. My mind was racing, my heart was pounding, I was sweating under air conditioning. What was the doctor going to find? What if they say I have not been ovulating? What if they say I would never be able to have a baby? What if I have low ovarian reserve? What if…what if…what if. I also wondered what kind of questions I was going to be asked, and I managed to work myself up so much, that when the nurse called out my number, I practically jumped out of fright and a few ladies around noticed I was tensed. My legs managed to carry me to the Consultant’s office and I sat down quietly as he went through my vitals. After about five minutes, he looked up and asked how he could help me. “I am trying to get pregnant and I don’t seem to know what the problem is”. He asked how long I have been trying for and I said four months, so he dismissed me, on grounds that according to WHO, I couldn’t be certified as infertile. Before then, I didn’t know that you have to have tried for about a year (six months if you are over 35) before undergoing diagnostic tests and treatments.
A lot of people put off that first appointment for as long as possible, and this hesitation is quite understandable. There is always that fear of the outcome of the diagnosis, and of course, a lot of us believe that you cannot go for a diagnosis and they won’t find anything. But this is erroneous; many couples I know that have made it to the doctor came back with a Big OKAY and no problems found. A friend of mine put off her first appointment for the longest time, deciding that “what she doesn’t know would not kill her” and choosing instead to try all sorts of over the counter conception boosters. After her twelveth failed cycle, she and her mother went to the doctor, and they found out that she had a cyst in her cervix; easy to remove, but problematic if left. She was placed on medications for a few weeks and she took in, not long afterwards.
Another friend of mine delayed and dallied around for about two years, and totally refused to see a doctor. Her fear was caused by her perceived amount of the cost of treatment. “These doctors would automatically recommend IVF for you, as if it is the only solution, and IVF is too expensive” she would lament. When she started symptom-spotting with Dr. Google and came up with all kinds of scary ailments and diseases, she looked for an hospital brochure someone gave her, and booked her first appointment. Like me, she was tensed as she waited to be called. Her mind wandered to all the ailments Google had given her and she almost went nuts from anxiety. Her diagnosis was easy; she was underweight, and her low BMI had caused hormonal imbalance that made her period irregularly and an absence of ovulation.
Not matter how much you hate to make that appointment, it has to be made. You could be underestimating or overplaying what the issues are, and it just helps to find out if there are any issues, and to begin treatment immediately. Contrary to what most people think, a lot of infertility cases are treated with drug therapy, life style changes or surgical repairs; not IVF. Dealing with the tension of your first fertility appointment starts with the recognition that you would at least find out if there is any problem, and start treatment should there be an issue. When it comes to fertility; early diagnosis and treatment is often the best approach because some issues get worse with time. The sooner the problem is diagnosed and treated, the closer you are to getting your BFP!
Preparing ahead for your appointment would also help tease the tension. Find out about the hospital and look up the doctor you have been booked to see. Having a sense of familiarity and knowledge can help make you more comfortable. It also helps to have questions written down, that you intend to ask, or a medical history you think the doctor should know about. You would most likely forget to ask these questions and mention these concerns if you do not have them written ahead of time. You can also ask questions from friends or online buddies about what to expect on the first appointment. Typically, you would have a general physical exam, blood work, pap smear, comprehensive pelvic assessment and breast examinations. The pelvic assessment enables the doctor determine the size, shape, position of your reproductive organs, the pap smear checks for infection and rules out cervical cancer, blood work determines the presence of an STI and individual hormonal levels. Knowing what to expect before you walk through the door definitely depletes the tension to some extent,right?
One of my cousins knew how apprehensive she was likely to get on the day of her first appointment and she was armed with lots of distractions. She had a magazine to read, and was busying browsing through the magazine, and also chatting on her phone as she waited. She obviously didn’t suffer as much tension as I. I had my phone on silence the minute I sat down at the lounge, I had nothing to read and the TV in the lounge couldn’t hold my attention; so I was scanning and observing every tiny movement and giving myself room to get worked up. Some people decide to go with a friend or sister that would keep them engaged in non-TTC related conversation until it was time to meet the doctor. Time flies by really fast when you are engaged in an interesting conversation.
Another factor that heightens the tension of the first fertility appointment is having other engagements on the same day and waiting for so long. When you have to get back to the office or meet with a client, you are anxiously watching the clock and waiting for your name/number to be called. It helps to keep your entire day free of other engagements on the day you go to see the doctor; you could have an 10:00am appointment but end up waiting till 1:00pm, which can be frustrating if you promised your boss to be back at the office by 12noon. Take the entire day off, so you are not tensed over any engagement and can take the time you need to get your tests done and also have a great conversation with your doctor.
I hope this helps.
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