Sweet’s Rules: Four simple rules I use each day to guide me as I diagnose and treat my infertile patients

During National Infertility Awareness Week, I’d like to share my four patient care rules. I made them up rather spontaneously nearly 22 years ago and I still use them each and every day when I am uncertain of what to tell a patient or how we should proceed.

Before the rules are invoked, it is most important to first understand what brings patients to my clinic. By understanding the causes of their infertility, I will better be able to tailor a treatment plan specific to their needs. Some patients feel this is a waste of time and want to proceed immediately to treatment, but I strongly recommend understanding the issues first before proceeding forward.

So, once the evaluation is complete, my Sweet’s Rules are used to guide us forward-

1. Get my patients pregnant as fast as I can

Time can be an enemy and patients are not necessarily patient. We need to complete the evaluation quickly and move forward as most of my patients wanted to be pregnant many yesterdays ago. Some will call this a “duh!” rule, but it is still a good one to keep me moving forward as the patient desires.

2. Achieve success in the most cost-effective manner possible

We always want to choose the least costly conception method. This might even mean sending the patients on a date to try natural means for a tad bit longer. Hopefully, the successful patient potentially saves a bundle by my guiding them away from costly alternatives. Sometimes, adoption is also the best option and I’ll send them down this new road, if it is needed, even if the practice loses a patient. My cardinal rule is to treat the patients like family and tell them what I would tell someone close to me, regardless of the gain or loss to the practice. Practicing this way has always served may patients well.

3. Minimize complications (i.e., no litters)

I took an oath to do no harm and I take that oath very, very seriously. A multiple pregnancy can be a million dollar pregnancy with complications too long to list here. Always pull back, no matter how much pressure from the patient, if I fear a complication is likely.

4. Minimize the use of procedures with minimal chances of success

This may be the most important rule. I do not like being a “Gynechiatrist” (borrowed from the movie “Knocked Up”) by performing procedures that are unlikely to work. While some patients need to try a procedure destined for probable failure, to have closure and the inner knowledge that they gave it a shot, I prefer to move quickly through these treatments and get the patient to understand what will truly bring them to their goal.

I tell patients these rules when I am trying to guide them through their treatment plan. I believe it helps them to understand why I am telling them something, especially when they don’t necessarily want to hear it. Understanding my motivations, I believe, helps them to appreciate that I truly have their best interests at heart. By following these simple four rules, I will always keep my patients’ needs first and foremost.

While I may not be successful with all my patients, I will always try my best, give them the best information I can and provide options that simply make sense. Interestingly, these rules help me keep on the path, as much as they simultaneously guide my patients, as we make decisions and travel the infertility to fertility journey together.

By: Dr. Craig R. Sweet

Medical Director & Founder

Free Contraceptive Insurance Coverage: A Good Idea?

The National Institute of Medicine finally suggested that women obtain contraceptive care with full insurance coverage and without large co-pays. From one perspective, it was about time. Nearly half of all pregnancies are unintended and families should be expanded when there is true intent and not because contraception was not available. Also, since men have medications for erectile dysfunction covered by insurance, it's seemed only fair.

That stated, there might be a downside. Since no co-pays will be obtained, will the insurance companies increase payment to make up the difference (doubtful) or will the physician’s office loose the income in an already existing atmosphere of dwindling reimbursements (more likely)?

Will the frequency of unwanted pregnancies and abortions really fall? Even though condoms have been made available at some clinics for free, having the contraception easily available didn’t mean it was used at all or used correctly. When one provides something for free, is as appreciated as when one has to pay an amount, no matter how small, to increase personal responsibility?

When care becomes free or nearly free, there is almost always an increase in utilization. Is contraception one area of medicine that we would welcome increased utilization? Most, except the religions that do not believe in contraception, will agree this is ultimately a step in the right direction. Even so, there is no free lunch. Will insurance companies increase the premiums to pay for the office visits and the contraceptive medications and pass the costs to everyone else? We suspect the answer is probably yes.

At first glance, requiring insurance companies to pay for female contraception seems like a great idea but there is the issue of unintended consequences. Please share your thoughts on our Facebook pagewhere we've started the discussion. We’d love to hear from you!


57 fibroids later – A “Sweet Success” story!

Read this compelling story of one woman's experience to preserve her uterus and reproductive health and avoid a hysterectomy. 57 fibroids later – she is a surgical success story: http://www.dreamababy.com/testimony1.htm

This week is National Women’s Health Week; empower the women in your life!

This week is National Women’s Health Week, a weeklong observance to empower women to make their health a top priority. Preventative health care is especially important to women trying to conceive through both natural and assisted reproductive options. Here are a few important tips:

  • Exercise regularly (if undergoing assisted reproduction, discuss with your physician)
  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings
  • Avoiding risky behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seatbelt
  • Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress

For more information, call 239-275-8118 or visit www.dreamababy.com.