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The pros and cons to online forums

Finding support through an emotionally and physically demanding journey is essential when undergoing fertility treatment. We’ve posted previously on how important it is to have a strong support network around you and as the entire process can be a daunting and complex one, being able to reach out to people during this time may be challenging.

The anonymous nature of online forums can be appealing to those who are having trouble reaching out to friends and family, and being able to chat about intimate details, especially to others who are experiencing the same situation.

For many, writing down and sharing their feelings to groups who are experiencing the same thing can be extremely beneficial to help relieve some of the pressure they may be feeling. In some communities and cultures, experiencing infertility issues can still be viewed as a stigma and being able to have access to support while also remaining anonymous is important.

It is important, however, to be cautious in online forums when taking advice, especially when it comes to medical information. Recent research has shown that almost one third of Australians have been convinced that they are suffering from a serious or life-threatening illness after using “Dr Google” to search for their symptoms. The convenience of looking up symptoms and/or fertility advice in forums is no different, and when you factor in the fact that fertility treatment is a highly emotionally charged journey, it can lead to issues.

So, what should you be mindful of when it comes to online forums?

Medical advice and treatment options: it is crucial to note that everyone’s fertility journey will be different, and in a world where different fertility options are available, online forums and internet searches do not consider a specific individual’s medical history. It is common for people taking part in online discussions to commonly fall prey to misinformation and incorrect medical advice, some of which could potentially be detrimental to your next cycle, or if you have just found out that you’re pregnant, could be harmful to your pregnancy. It’s incredibly important that you only take medical advice from your fertility Specialist and not rely on the opinions of others.

Fertility clinic reviews: trusting reviews or endorsements of fertility clinics and businesses in online forums should be met with caution as comments may not necessarily be made by real patients. We acknowledge that the entire IVF process is an emotionally charged journey that many patients can find difficult, however when seeking support and looking for recommendations in online forums, it helps to go into them with an open and cautious mind.

Buying medication: fertility medication can be expensive, however turning to online forums to buy/sell/swap prescribed fertility drugs is not only illegal, but it can also be dangerous. The medication or supplements may be tampered with, they may not have been stored properly or they may have expired, and that’s if the seller even has something to send in the mail to you.

It’s incredibly important to understand that fertility forums can be a positive experience for some, but for others, it can be painful. Speaking to others who are experiencing a similar situation to yourself can be comforting, however it can also be challenging when others announce pregnancies or post pictures of ultrasounds.

So, should you look towards online forums for support and advice?

The takeaway message we would suggest is to always be vigilant and it makes sense to be careful when approaching online forums. Be mindful of the information you read regarding clinics and never take medical advice from anyone other than your Fertility Specialist.