In this era of advanced technology, the ‘Information Age’ is well and truly flourishing. What started out as a select few being afforded access to the World Wide Web has now boomed into approximately one third of the world’s population using the internet on a daily basis, via their phones, tablets, laptops and personal computers.

In fact, the large majority of us are fast becoming reliant on the internet to help us in our everyday life. We can do just about anything online – order our weekly grocery shopping, purchase gifts, book holidays, pay bills, enrol on courses, apply for jobs, meet our soul-mates, listen to music, watch movies, talk to loved ones in other countries, play games with like-minded people, get advice from doctors, and find out information on just about any topic you can think of! So it stands to reason that people struggling with infertility would also turn to the internet to access advice and acquire knowledge regarding their situation. That’s where ‘IVF and Infertility Forums’ can come in handy. You can make contact with others who have been through what you have been through, or who find themselves in a similar situation. For some couples who have made the decision to go down the route of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), it can be invaluable to be able to share their experiences and concerns. Often, they have chosen not to let their family, friends and acquaintances know that they are partaking in some sort of ART. It can be a tough journey, and sometimes, the well-meaning (but frequently ill-informed) comments of our colleagues or loved ones can be too much to bear whilst riding such an emotional roller coaster.

As such, online forums can potentially be a reassuring and much-needed ‘arm around your shoulders’. However, on the flip side, they can also throw up their own unique set of problems. If you are planning on joining an IVF or Infertility Group, here are a few things to keep in mind –

Most forums are created by a good-hearted person just like you, as opposed to originating from an actual IVF Clinic or Infertility Organisation. As a result of this, they are usually managed by volunteer administrators. Not an easy job, one would imagine. It must be difficult, if not impossible, for these hard-working volunteers to monitor every single comment posted.

Indeed, this also raises concerns about whether there would be any possible way to vet the members of online groups, especially when the forum is a popular one and membership can run into the tens of thousands. Sadly, this opens you up to receiving incorrect advice, distorted opinions, and in some cases, downright lies. Basically, you could be talking to anyone!

Unfortunately, the internet also abounds with ‘trolls’. Wikipedia defines a troll as ‘a person who sows discord by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.’
It is not unusual for a particular IVF Clinic to be discussed at great length, but this is generally without any representation from said clinic, or the ability for the clinic in question to openly redress any derogatory comments or inaccuracies.

There is also the matter of ‘patient confidentiality’ to consider. Clinics are not allowed to share information on a public forum, and therefore have no way to correct any fabrications. For example, a former patient could possibly become bitter after receiving a negative result from an IVF cycle, and as is the way of human nature, they may be looking for something or someone to blame. You can never be absolutely sure whether you are reading the truth, or someone’s perception of the truth. This could certainly be misleading for couples potentially planning to cycle with that clinic. The best way to combat this issue is to make direct contact with any clinic(s) you are considering using. They are the best people to answer any questions you may have about treatment, and to quash any concerns that may be eating away at you.

Another down-side to using a forum is that they can occasionally be used by people seeking financial benefits, so one must show great care when divulging personal information.

A further point to consider is ‘Opinion versus Fact’. One person’s opinion about specific clinics, tailored treatments, or particular doctors, may differ greatly from your own. It’s always interesting to read someone’s review, but try to keep in mind that someone else’s experience will not necessarily be your experience. Try to read the reviews from as many perspectives as you can in order to gain a more rounded understanding.

I’m sure you’ve read restaurant reviews and noted varying opinions, ranging from “absolutely amazing” to “terribly traumatic”. You could find that if you decide to part with some of your hard-earned cash at that very same establishment, you may experience superb service, fabulous food, and astounding ambience; compared to Joe Bloggs and his wife who said the service was poor, the food was awful and the ambience was lacking. Same restaurant, same food, same service, but two very different opinions!

An IVF/Infertility forum should be a mutually beneficial platform to share experiences, to support each other, and to encourage one another on what can be a highly emotional journey. And it CAN be that place, as long as you keep your wits about you, keep an open mind, and remember that your journey will be personal to you. Of course, it’s good to share experiences and opinions, but try to base your choices on knowledge and facts.

We wish you the best of luck as you travel down your chosen road.