By Kate Brian, journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility
It’s only natural to want to find out as much as you can about fertility problems and treatment when you are having difficulty getting pregnant, and for most of us the first place to turn when we want information is the Internet. There is certainly no lack of online advice about fertility and you are likely to find yourself swamped with information once you start searching.
Sources of trustworthy information
One thing you will notice is that different websites often have very varied views on fertility-related issues and that the tips and advice you are given can differ wildly from one to another. What can be difficult is working out which sources of information you should trust. The first and most important thing is to look at where the advice is coming from. If it is from a professional body, a medical journal, a registered charity working in the field or a reputable fertility clinic, then you will know it comes with some authority and that it is likely to be accurate and informed.
Of course, many other websites contain perfectly accurate information, but some don’t and it can be difficult to weed out the reliable articles from the less than reliable! Even well-known media outlets can sometimes get things wrong, and that’s why you should be careful about putting too much faith in advice you find online.
It is also important to be aware that anyone can post anything online, and what you are reading may be written by someone who has a vested interest in promoting a particular drug or treatment. Companies often use patient surveys or other information to promote their products, and it may not be obvious that the advice you are reading is written with a particular slant.
Information from other patients
The fertility forum is an increasingly popular source of support and advice for many people going through fertility treatment nowadays, and although these can be very useful, they can also be one of the most unreliable sources of information. People often post about their own experiences and their treatment plans, down to the detail of the drugs they’ve been prescribed and the minutiae of their clinic experience. If you read that someone else has been successful following a certain path, you may want to follow the same route which has apparently worked so well. It’s vital to remember that each patient is different and what is suitable for someone else, even if it worked for them, may be completely wrong for you.
You will often find a lot of medical information on a fertility patient forum, and you will see people recommending particular drugs or treatments and giving one another advice on what might be the best way ahead. No matter how much fertility treatment these people may have had, they are not medically qualified doctors with experience in fertility – and you sometimes find alarming misinformation on these sites. Use them as a source of support, do read what others have to say – but be wary about relying on any medical advice that you may find.
The best source of information
You will want to inform yourself as best you can when you are having fertility treatment, but when it comes to the Internet, always think about the sources of what you are reading. The best way to ensure that the information is accurate if you read something that you think may help you is to talk about it to your fertility specialist; they are aware of your individual situation and can assess what would be best for you.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.