When couples or individuals discover they’re having trouble conceiving, the internet is generally their first port of call to start conducting research. And there are a few reasons for this. The first is that many of those dealing with infertility aren’t sure who to speak with about it, and it’s also not clear if it’s something their primary care provider or OB can help with.
The second is that infertility is an incredibly sensitive topic, and those dealing with it might not feel comfortable speaking about it openly yet (if ever). The internet provides a safe, anonymous place for them to ask questions and gather information.
But while there are reputable websites with reliable fertility information, and forums that are useful for creating social connections and commiserating with others experiencing fertility challenges, the internet is also rife with misinformation and dangerous advice regarding fertility issues.
Finding reputable fertility advice online
The good news is that there is fact-checked, peer-reviewed fertility information to be found online.
Reproductive Endocrinologist (REI) fertility clinics are generally a safe bet. REIs are board-certified medical doctors with advanced training in the science of fertility, its evaluation and treatment, so the information on their websites is likely trustworthy.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is also a great source of verified fertility information, as is the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) and the CDC’s Artificial Reproductive Technology website.
Resolve, the National Infertility Association also provides great fertility resources that are objective and reliable.
Another trustworthy option for fertility information is secondary support providers like Hera Care+. The Hera Care+ team has staff on hand to provide reliable information and answer questions you have about your specific fertility issues, even before you see a physician.
The dangers of unverified fertility advice
Many of those experiencing infertility are in a vulnerable position. They are struggling emotionally and are often hoping for easy answers to what are often complex medical problems.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of bad actors that want to take advantage of people who find themselves in these situations. This includes unlicensed and unqualified individuals, self-proclaimed fertility coaches and private companies (rather than REIs) with a vested interest in selling fertility products or services.
The information on their websites can be inaccurate, biased and often lacks evidence-based research. Many also fail to disclose conflicts of interest (especially if the information is provided by a private company rather than a physician).
The risks of online forums
Most of us understand the importance of personalized medical care. After all, each of us is inherently different and has unique healthcare needs, especially when it comes to fertility.
But many of those experiencing fertility issues can find themselves reading online fertility forums and assume a treatment that worked for one person will work for them. While some may consult their doctor beforehand, others take matters into their own hands, increasing, changing, starting or stopping fertility medication based on what they read worked for someone else.
Not only is this incredibly dangerous, but it’s also usually ineffective. REIs are trained specialists who create fertility treatment plans tailored to the individual. They are based on several factors, including medical history, genetics, weight, fertility levels in both partners, egg quality, maternal age and so on. This means what worked for one person might not necessarily work for another.
Online fertility forums can be an excellent resource for sharing non-medical advice and helping you feel less alone while experiencing infertility. But following medical advice from anyone but your primary care provider can have severe consequences.
How to protect yourself from misinformation
It’s important to remember that there are two crucial stages when it comes to researching anything online, especially fertility information:
Gathering information: This stage involves simply collecting fertility information and advice you find online.
Analyzing information: This is a crucial stage that is often overlooked. It involves critically assessing the validity of the source of the information. Is it unbiased? Is the information from a trusted publication? Is it peer-reviewed? Does it reference one or more legitimate medical studies? Does the author have any conflicts of interest that might affect the integrity of the information being presented?
Most of us fall victim to only following the first step when we read something online, but the second step is what weeds out the bad from the good. And it’s especially important when it comes to assessing the veracity of medical information.
Getting clarity on fertility treatment
The truth is most people experiencing infertility have more questions than opportunities to access medical advice. Often fertility teams are overtaxed, under-resourced and time-poor.
That’s why it’s so important to seek out additional support for your fertility questions and to fact-check fertility information you’ve sourced online.
At HeraCare+, our team of fertility specialists can help fill this gap by providing trustworthy guidance and advice, arming you with the knowledge you need to ask your physician the right medical questions when you see them.
Want to learn more? Take a look at Hera Care+ to see how our team of fertility experts can help guide you through this process.