Infertility can be downright lonely. You might feel like no one understands you and it is easy to feel lost in the overwhelming amount of information that is out there online. This is where online support groups might enter your world. Like any other support group, they are likely to have their strengths and weaknesses. While there is no "one size fits all" approach to support that will work for everyone, if you can navigate the drawbacks and source out your tribe, it just might make all of the difference in your experience. As someone who has been there and done that, here are some of the pros and cons of joining an online infertility support group.
Pro: They Are Always Available When You Need Them
Being online, support forums are available whenever you are. No need to rearrange your schedule for an in-person group. And when you are up at night worrying about your fertility treatment the next morning, there is always someone available to reach out to for encouragement with just a few taps.
Con: But You Have To Get Used To The Jargon
An online infertility forum is an excellent place to start navigating the challenges that come with struggling to have a baby. You just first have to get used to the lingo. If I told you I just got a BFN after 15DPO and now I need to wait for AF—Would you know what I mean? It can be frustrating at first, but the good news is, that the Internet is full of handy abbreviation lists to get you started.
Pro: Belonging to a Community
Human beings have this natural tendency to belong. We want to fit in and when you’re experiencing infertility, it can seem like everyone around you is getting pregnant at the drop of a hat. No one around seems to understand. An infertility forum is a place where so many women (and men!) can go to become part of a group with one shared goal: to have a child.
Con: But Support Groups Are Not Immune To Drama
You would think we would all be in this together being that we’re a community based on supporting each other, but there are still those who cause issues. There are still mean people that say hurtful things, even when they are struggling to get pregnant. Luckily, in my experience, this hasn’t happened often, and if you do find yourself in a toxic group there are plenty of other groups to try.
Pro: Support From People Who’ve Been There
For some still in the infertility closet or early in their journey, an online fertility forum is a place where they can open up. Maybe you’ve just experienced your 54th negative pregnancy test and just need someone to commiserate with. Maybe you are heading into your first in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, and want to connect with others who are doing the same. There is a little something for everyone and many sites have boards for people in all stages of their journey, from just starting out, to forums for donor eggs and adoption.
Con: But You See Worst Case Scenarios
For many, just obtaining information on an unknown treatment plan or next step is a huge stress reliever. Just being informed of something can put our minds at ease. However, it’s easy to panic when a woman from your group has a miscarriage after her IVF cycle, right before yours is scheduled. It doesn’t mean you will too. But it’s easy to focus on the bad stories you hear, instead of all the good things that can come from a fertility treatment. Please remember, their story is not yours.
Pro: You Can Get Questions Answered
Fertility clinics have a bad habit of just not telling you much along the way. For so many of us, we are left to our own devices about natural supplements or treatments, or even what our next steps should be. Or maybe you are wondering if pineapple core really worked for some people after an embryo transfer. No matter what your question, there is probably someone out there with an answer. And as you experience more in infertility, you may find yourself a valuable resource to others.
Con: But There Can Be Inaccurate and Overwhelming Information
Infertility forums are a wealth of information, but they may not always be the place for the best information. Maybe you just wanted to better understand opinions on picking a fertility doctor, and suddenly you find twenty-five responses from the group and you’re left feeling overwhelmed. Or you chose not to do acupuncture, but everyone is insisting it will help in your next IVF. Make sure you take advice from others with a grain of salt and don’t discount your own intuition. And remember that the best thing to do when you have questions about medical information is to talk to your doctor or clinic nurses.
Pro: You Can Be Anonymous
Some people don’t want anyone in their "real life" to know what they are going through. The beauty of online forums is that from your username to your profile, you can choose to be as open as you want. No one ever has to know that it’s you that’s behind that avatar profile photo. However…
Con: But You Could Miss Out On Connecting With Someone On A More Personal Level
Just because I was very open about my infertility, doesn’t mean others are ready to share as much. But I’ve always wondered if those who remain anonymous are missing out on a real connection to someone who is also struggling. Some of my closest friendships came about because I put myself out there and either connected in person or as the real face behind the screen.
There is no right or wrong way to seek support during infertility. Infertility forums can be a wonderful way to connect with others who are going through a similar experience. They also allow people the freedom to be supported and to support others without the confines of a physical support group. There are many forums out there and it doesn’t hurt to try one and see if it’s for you. Infertility is an incredibly difficult and lonely thing to go through and everyone who has to experience it should be supported in some way.