Introducing the team members

Your IVF team members are highly skilled professionals and in this section I explain the different roles they play. Each person has a particular job to do and each and every one of the IVF team is crucial to your journey through the IVF process.

Don't forget to include yourself as part of the IVF team: You're an expert — on yourself! You're as important as any other team member. So ensure you actively involve yourself in the treatment process: Ask plenty of questions if you're not sure about something, consider carefully the options presented to you, make informed decisions and take charge of the things you can control.

Infertility specialist

Infertility specialists are doctors who've spent many years training in obstetrics and gynaecology with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG). After they qualify these specialists become Fellows of the College and can add the very impressive string of letters 'FRANZCOG' after their name. Some take on even more study and have a formal qualification in the subspecialty of reproductive endocrinology and infertility (CREI), which allows them to add 'CREI' to their credentials.

You're either assigned an infertility specialist (your 'IVF doctor') when you first visit the clinic or your family doctor refers you to an IVF doctor (see Chapter 1) who's responsible for your care throughout the whole IVF process. To begin with, he or she orders tests and investigations in order to pinpoint the reason why you can't fall pregnant (I discuss the infertility investigation in Chapter 1). Then, using this information and considering your age and reproductive history, your IVF doctor engineers a treatment plan that's tailored to your particular circumstances. He or she discusses this plan with you, explains the steps involved and gives you an estimate of the chance of the treatment working for you.

Assuming you're happy with the plan and go ahead, your IVF doctor then follows your progress during each IVF cycle you undertake, directing other team members to manage your treatment (I describe the steps involved in a cycle in Chapter 5). At some clinics your IVF doctor performs all the procedures, but at other clinics a number of IVF doctors work together as a team and you may or may not see your own doctor on the day you have a procedure. But, rest assured — all the information is fed back to your own doctor.


IVF nurses are registered nurses who're sometimes also qualified midwives or nurse practitioners. Before nurses can take on the responsibilities of IVF nursing they usually must have up to a year of training within an IVF clinic.

The nurses are the team members you see most often: They're the ones who hold your hand and guide you through the steps involved in IVF. IVF nurses are often called nurse coordinators because they make sure that all members of the team are lined up ready to go when you need them and that you know exactly what you need to do each day. During your treatment the nurses are your closest allies and you can always turn to them for information, instruction, advice, support and understanding.

In smaller clinics you often see the same nurse every time you're at the clinic, but in larger clinics you can expect to see a few different nursing faces during your treatment.

You may come across a nurse who you really get along with and who you feel is tuned in to you and your needs. If this happens, ask her whether she's willing to be 'your' nurse for the extent of your treatment (providing she's on duty when you need her, of course). Having one person who takes charge is easier for you because you don't have to repeat your story endlessly and you know who to turn to when you need support.


One of the conditions for getting a licence to open an IVF clinic is that couples who come for treatment have access to an IVF counsellor. IVF counsellors are counsellors, psychologists or social workers who specialise in the psychological aspects of infertility and infertility treatment and must be members of the Australian and New Zealand Infertility Counsellors Association (ANZICA).

The counsellor's job is to help you keep the stress of treatment at manageable levels and to be there to give you a boost of support if you need it. You can see the counsellor individually or as a couple, depending on what you feel is best for you. The counsellor can

1 Explain things you don't understand

1 Give you a heads-up on the common emotional reactions to IVF treatment and tips on how to deal with them

1 Help you if you encounter relationship problems

1 Talk you through any difficult decisions that you have to make

Counsellors are very useful people indeed and you should get in touch with one whenever you feel the need to. Speak to one of the nurses or reception staff if you want to see a counsellor and he or she will arrange an appointment for you.


Embryologists are highly specialised scientists who work in the IVF lab: Each IVF baby's life starts in their hands. Their skill, dedication and constant pursuit of improvements to IVF technology have dramatically improved the IVF success rate over the years.

The IVF lab has a scientific director who manages the embryologists and makes sure that all systems operate to perfection, so that the embryos that start life in the lab get the best possible chance to continue to develop.

The IVF lab is a sterile environment and staff who work there wear lab clothes and funny-looking paper hats. Don't let that put you off: If you have any lab-related questions, embryologists are usually more than happy to spend some time with you explaining what goes on in the lab. If you'd like to speak directly to an embryologist, talk to the reception staff or one of the nurses to arrange an appointment.


Pathologists examine all the blood specimens that you give during IVF treatment and report the results back to your IVF doctor. You're unlikely to meet the pathologists, but their importance in the IVF team needs to be acknowledged. The test results dictate how your treatment is managed, so your IVF doctor has to be completely confident that the results are correct.


During your course of IVF you have several vaginal ultrasound examinations completed by an ultrasonographer. These specialists can decipher the strange-looking black-and-white images of your insides and provide your IVF doctor with a detailed report of how your treatment is progressing.

All being well, you'll meet the ultrasonographer again after treatment — for your first pregnancy scan!


Before your eggs are collected (see Chapter 5), an anaesthetist puts you to sleep so that you're 'out of it' and pain-free during the process, and hopefully feel fine when you wake up afterwards. In some clinics you can stay awake during egg collection, but an anaesthetist is present to give you something to help you relax.

Administration staff

Clinic administration staff help you through the jungle of paperwork and keep tabs of your appointments. The receptionist is usually a great source of information if you're looking for something or someone, and the people in the accounts department are experts at explaining the financial side of things.

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