What to expect from your first NHS infertility appointment
In June 2017, after 15 months of trying to conceive, I finally had our first NHS infertility appointment about our secondary infertility. I didn’t have a clue what to expect in that appointment and felt extremely nervous about going. I did plenty of research and found loads of information about the US, but due to the very different health services, I couldn’t be sure that would be anything like how my appointment here within the UK with the NHS would go.
I’ve now been back and forwards a couple of times and ready to share my tips for preparing for your first NHS infertility appointment.
- Gather all your notes and test results and take them with you. In my area, before I could be referred to the hospital, my GP had to organise an ultrasound, a set of blood tests and a semen analysis. Make sure before you go to the hospital you have had all that testing and have the results to hand. Ring your GP and ask for a printout of all your results to take with you. That will let you refresh your memory of what the results say and do a bit of research before you go and also make sure the doctor you see at the hospital will be able to look at them. Depending on how far you have to travel to the nearest fertility specialist they may or may not have access to the results on their computer system. My local hospital had it’s funding for fertility cut so I was sent to another hospital around 15 miles away, they are part of different trusts and therefore he didn’t have a copy of any of my results. If I hadn’t of taken my results with me I would have had to start all over again with the testing.
- Do some research first. Personally, I already knew I have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) so I was able to predict a few of the possible routes the doctor was going to suggest. Already knowing a little meant I was able to ask some questions there and then. Here is the NHS website’s information for a good place to start your research but I would also recommend forums such as BabyAndBump.
- Prepare to be examined. For some reason, I did not expect to need to be physically examined, not only once but actually once by the specialist, once by his medical student and then given an internal ultrasound. Between having already having had a baby, a smear test and the coil in and out I am well acquainted with internal examinations and not something that phases me. But if this is primary infertility for you, you may not have ever had any kind of internal examination before so it is something to prepare yourself for mentally. There is no physical discomfort but you might feel awkward. And in case you are wondering, this will not care whether you are already on your period, they will just go ahead anyway so just make sure you are prepared with any sanitary products you might need!
- Be prepared for a long wait. This is true of any kind of NHS hospital appointment, they have a tendency to run late. In the end between turning up 15 minutes before my appointment time to fill in some paperwork and actually finally leaving after seeing a nurse, the doctor, another doctor for a scan and going to have a round of blood tests, we ended up being at the hospital for nearly 5 hours. So bring a book or a magazine or something to take your mind off whilst you wait. Don’t just rely on your phone, you might not have any signal! Also snacks! Lots of snacks!
- Know your cycle inside and out. There will be lots of questions about how long your cycles are, when your last period was, do you do ovulation tests etc etc. I ended up printing out the information from my fertility friend app (highly recommend that if you aren’t already using it and having fertility issues!) so that I had it all in front of me, on paper, to show him when he asked.
- Prepare yourself that your first appointment is unlikely to have a sudden resolution for you. I came out of that appointment having been referred for several different more types of tests, a surgery, a load of scans and an appointment for 5 months time. That appointment in 5 months time would be the one to start coming up with a plan of action for treatment so there were several more months of waiting around and quite frankly feeling miserable. But have trust in your doctor, they want to get you pregnant and will do everything they can but it is the NHS, infertility services are hugely unfunded and unfortunately, you will really have to draw on every ounce of patience you have available to you. I find it is always sensible to go into an appointment expecting nothing because it saves on disappointment.
- Don’t plan to go back to work that day. You will come out drowning in more paperwork, more information, more questions and high running emotions. Plan to be able to take the rest of the day with your partner to digest all the information that has just been thrown at you. We went out for a late lunch on the way home to talk it all through. Neither of us would have been any use at work going in after all of that. We also found that we both remembered bits and pieces that the other hadn’t so talking it through immediately afterwards let us gather our thoughts and all the information.
I hope that has left you feeling a bit more informed and prepared for your first NHS infertility appointment. Good luck!