Sunday, March 15, 2015

Is online research helpful for infertile patients ?

Infertile women spend hours on the net and this can become a sore issue. Their husbands worry that they start obsessing over every minor issue ( and end up feeling neglected in the bargain); and lots of family members feel that a "little knowledge is dangerous " and that "patients shouldn't try to become half-baked doctors". Women, on the other hand, believe that "knowledge is power" - and knowing what should be happening gives them more control over their life.

This is a guest post from an expert patient about her perspective.

When I stepped into the unchartered territory of fertility treatments, I knew precious little about fertility except what I had been taught in school about the birds and the bees.

Today, the internet has changed everything, and there's tons of information available at our fingertips. Is this easy availability of knowledge a hazard ? How can we use it effectively to aid our journey?

While starting trying to conceive, I realized how little I knew about the subject. This is not something that women openly discussed or shared with each other. From timing a cycle, temp charting, cervical mucus, understanding conception, chances, and fertility monitors-- the internet is a storehouse of valuable information.

Because there's so much information, it's important to sort the wheat from the chaff, and I and use different websites for different reasons. While I trust a doctor’s websites for medical details ( as compared to infertility blogs ) forums are very useful as a source of emotional support. Each story can make you feel hopeful, ecstatic, symptomatic, paranoid - depending upon the outcome, and your own mood !

Lots of websites provide contradictory information, and this can get quite confusing for the newbie. You need to be patient, and trust that you will get better at making sense of this over time. 

After trying more than one clinic- I have learned to ask “Why” more often to my doctors ! Why do I need to go on the pill before a cycle? Is ultrasound guided transfer better? Why did I miscarry- can it happen again? Is my TSH number really that relevant? How much caffeine is acceptable? How much exercise is okay? Is that test really required? And with a good doctor, who respects my intelligence, I have noticed they don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know…”  Reading up online has definitely improved the quality of my questions over time.

Unfortunately, even though I should know better, I can’t help reading forums for symptoms of pregnancy during my 2WW- heartburn, cramps, implantation bleed, heavier breasts- does it mean something ? If I get the symptoms, I worry - and even if I don't, I worry , so it’s a no-win situation really! I know that the artificial hormones provided in a cycle can cause many of the symptoms, but that hope…

To sum up, do your research- more on clinical websites than forums, use it to increase your knowledge, not your fears and forgive yourself for trolling the internet for symptoms- you’re not alone out there!

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