Kristen Mancinelli, Director of Partnerships at Extend Fertility
This is our third and final post on this topic.
We’ve heard about the very real challenges physicians face when talking to patients about fertility, and we’ve heard how failing to start that (sometimes uncomfortable) conversation can have irreversible consequences for women in their care. So what’s to be done? Should women forsake getting necessary facts from their doctors and turn instead to questionably accurate information from the world wide web? Should doctors watch women walk of their offices with diminishing ovarian reserve and just hope for the best?
No! We can be smarter than that.
There are a few simple things that both physicians and patients can do to get the conversation going and get women access to the information and care they deserve.
1. Read this fantastic commentary by Allison K. Rogers, MD, on why you should talk to your patients about their fertility! It cites data from a national survey of women, less than half of whom reported that they understood age-related fertility decline, and 89% of whom believed that infertility education should be mentioned at OB/GYN visits. More than half said they would have made different life choices if they had known about age-related decline in fertility.
2. Ask women if they have thought about childbearing plans, and encourage them to do so if they have not. If they indicate that they might want children in the future, ask if they feel comfortable with their level of knowledge about age-related fertility decline and how it might affect their childbearing opportunities. If they’re not confident with their level of knowledge, offer them education: give patients pamphlets about age-related fertility decline, make these materials available in your office waiting room, and if possible, provide them in a patient packet. (Reach out to Kristen to get printed materials for your office.) Make a note in their chart to ask follow up questions at the next visit you can follow up.
3. Check women’s AMH, or send them to get the test done at a lab. Explain the purpose of the test and encourage it for any woman who might want children in the future. This is a practical step that can lead to proactive next steps for a woman—whether it prompts her to consider seriously if she would like to have a child with her current partner, if her life plans can accommodate having children, or if she wants to explore the option of fertility preservation.
1. Tell your doctor that you want to become better informed about fertility and your options for childbearing at an age that’s right for you. It’s a good idea to call your physician’s office before your visit and let them know you’d like to discuss age-related fertility decline and fertility preservation options. Alerting the staff to your needs for education and resources should prompt them to come prepared to your visit, and it gives them time to gather materials (e.g., print fact sheets, review statistics and treatment options). It also shows you’re serious about your fertility health and want to be an active partner in safeguarding it. (If your providers fail to respond to this request after you alert them to the need, then it may be time to find a new physician.)
2. Go to your visit with a list of questions. Because face time with physicians can be scarce, being prepared with a list of questions in advance can help facilitate information transfer. If the physician is unable to spend the time, then ask for a nurse or other member of the clinical staff to talk with you. Here are some examples of questions you might discuss with your doctor:
At what age does fertility start to decline?
Are there any tests I can do to assess my fertility?
If I know I don’t want to have children now/in the next year/in the next 5 years, what are my options?
3. Seek out additional resources—like those on our website! You could even share facts about age-related fertility decline and how egg freezing works (see, you’re better informed already!) with your doctor so they can pass it onto their other patients.
With a little preparation and a little research, you can ensure women have all the resources they need to make truly informed decisions about their bodies and their futures. We’re here to help.