Doctor Google – Friend or Foe?

Doctor Google - Friend or Foe?I’m sure from the title you can already guess what this post is about.  The joys of the internet search.  I have come to know my Google search as Dr Google.  He (who has to be a man) has become a source of knowledge about all things TTC and IF related.  I know what you’re thinking – Why don’t I see real doctors?  Well, I’ve seen them too, but I’ll get to that later.

I’ll briefly outline how it all started:

In the beginning

I have always had issues with my cycles since coming off the BCP, so in the early days I used to consult Dr Google for research into what could be wrong with my cycles.  it didn’t take long before I started to find out what a mine-field the internet could be.  Between the forums and official medical sites (like the NHS and I was already finding mixed opinions about what was going on in my body.  Maybe this should have been a warning sign.

Starting TTC

When we first started TTC, the things I used Dr Google for the most were symptoms in the two week wait (2ww).  Every day for almost two weeks I would be on the computer or on my phone “chatting” to Dr Google about whether I was pregnant or not.  Surely he can tell without a HPT… can’t he?

Time goes by

As time went on and we’d had our first miscarriage and had been TTC for a while, Dr Google became my friend, confidant and (dare I say it) my soul-mate.  A relationship that should have been kept strictly professional started to go wrong.  I was obsessed.  I’d exhausted looking at the 2ww symptoms and was now on a mission to find out what was wrong with me:

  • A slight twinge in my abdomen – Ask Dr Google
  • Change in cervical mucus  – Ask Dr Google
  • Cycle length change – Ask Dr Google
  • Period pain – Ask Dr Google
  • Period consistancy (sorry too much info there)  – Ask Dr Google
  • Headache – Ask Dr Google
  • Sore little finger on right hand – Ask Dr Google
  • Why weren’t we pregnant yet?  – Ask Dr Google

You get the idea!

Why is consulting Dr Google so tempting?

The problem with IF and TTC problems is the waiting around for appointments and the amount of unknowns there are (hence why so many people have “unexplained IF”).  I have seen numerous Doctors over the last two years and have been passed from pillar to post with long waits in-between and have got no answers.  I’ve been fobbed off by the fertility department (because we’d had a miscarriage and can therefore get pregnant) and even had to tell the nurse doing my blood test what AMH (or Anti Mullarian Hormones) were.  I’m not getting any younger and since I am pretty much the most impatient person in the world, I have never been one to sit around and wait.  Dr Google gave me answers immediately.  Or did he?

Should you avoid Dr Google?

The problem with Dr Google is that he knows too much and what he does know is not necessarily true.  His diagnosis is based on a mixture of information from forums, personal websites (like blogs) and real medical information.  Anyone can put something on the internet about medical problems (I do it myself) and most people who write about this stuff on the internet are not Doctors.  

Here are the two sides of my experiences:

It can be a great comfort to find out that thousands of women have spotting for a few days before their period and have had successful pregnancies.  And that many people are successful after two miscarriages and that it was just bad luck.

However, it causes a lot of stress to find out that spotting before a period can mean a number of things which may be wrong: endometriosis, luteal phase defect, thyroid disorder, etc.  And that two miscarriages in a row is very unlikely and strongly indicates there’s a problem:  luteal phase problem, poor egg quality, poor sperm quality, the list goes on…

The big problem is that, in truth, Dr Google cannot answer your question,  he can only speculate.  Avoiding Dr Google may be a little extreme, but I’d say use him with caution!

What you will get from Dr Google

More often than not you will absorb what you want to hear and this will depend on your mindset.  If you are feeling positive, you will notice all the good things: the people who were successful against all odds, that two miscarriages means nothing.  But if you are having a down day, you will diagnose yourself with a million and one things causing yourself more stress, worry and frustration that the real Doctors haven’t found this yet (don’t they know anything about fertility?!)

So, after hours of “consulting”, you are a little bit more educated about fertility, but still don’t have the answer you wanted.  The only way that can happen is if you see a real Doctor.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Dr Google and his team of virtual colleagues are very useful.  But I have learnt some very important things:

  1. Not to obsess and consult him about every little twinge, grumble and unusual cervical mucus blob.
  2. To use him to increase my knowledge so that I’m not baffled or overwhelmed when I have real appointments and treatments.
  3. To remember that what you read is not always strictly true.  Much of it is opinion or the experiences of a handful of people.  Not a medical diagnosis.

What do you think about Dr Google?  Friend or foe?

photo by: j.reed

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