Monday, December 30, 2013

What questions should an IVF patient learn to ask ?

The most important skill IVF patients need to learn is that of asking the right questions. Infertile couples have lots of questions – especially when they have failed an IVF cycle, and they rightfully expect their doctors to provide them with answers. While it is true that the quality of the doctor’s answers depend upon him ( his personality  and whether or not he encourages patients to ask questions; how well-informed he is; and whether he can speak clearly without using jargon), they also depend upon the quality of the patient's questions !

Good -quality questions get good-quality answers. Many patients just pull out a generic list of questions and this can be quite irritating even for a well-meaning doctor, who has a limited amount of time to spend with each patient . He may try to go through the list patiently, but many will get visibly upset. Now this does not mean that he is trying to hide information – it just means that he is disappointed that the patient has not bothered to take the time and trouble to answer these simple questions for themselves by doing a basic internet search.

When this happens, patients start complaining that doctors refuse to answer their simple basic questions. While it is the doctor’s responsibility to educate the patient, it is equally true that it is the patient’s responsibility to educate themselves and not expect the doctor to spoon-feed them. Doctors are teachers, but good doctors do expect their patients to behave as good students and do their homework before coming for the consultation !

The good news is that there's more than enough information available online – and that most general questions can easily be answered without involving the doctor. The questions which are specific to your particular circumstances are best answered by your doctor – and these are the ones you should reserve for him. The more you know about your problem, the better the quality of your question ! The squeaky wheel gets the grease and doctors respect patients who ask good questions.

Bad questions are those which are general – and which you can find answers to for yourself by doing a google search. So what are good questions ? Not only should they preferably be tailored and specific to your circumstances, they should also be crafted in such a way that the doctor has to provide answers which are actionable, and which help you make better decisions !

Let’s look at an example. The first question patients with a low sperm count often ask is – Why is my sperm count so low ? This is a logical query – and the patient hopes that once we know what the problem is, we’ll be able to fix it ! After all, doesn’t diagnosis always come before treatment ? While it’s true that this is an important question, in real life the answer is not very useful for most patients. A far better question than Why ? should be What ? Thus, a better question should be – Now that I know I have a low sperm count, what should I do in order to get my wife pregnant ? This question is much more likely to produce concrete solutions which can lead to your desired goal – that of having a
 baby !

I believe answering the question why a man has a low sperm count is best answered in a research lab setting, rather than in a clinic. Te danger with this question is that the doctor then ends up ordering a battery of tests, in order to satisfy the patient . Not only do these end up wasting time and money, they are usually pointless, because they do not influence the treatment options the doctor can offer. Even worse , they distract from the primary goal – that of helping the couple to have a baby ! Instead of looking for problems, patients need to learn to ask questions which will help them to find
solutions !

At Malpani Infertility Clinic, we encourage our patients to ask questions   - and we teach them how to ask good question.

Not sure what questions to ask your IVF doctor ? Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at so that I can guide you better !

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