The internet and social media have allowed for a new way to talk about infertility. Now you don’t have to feel so alone.
“Your blood test showed high levels of androgens.”
My doctor continued to speak but I didn’t understand what she was saying. All I knew was that it meant something was wrong with me.
She was trying to explain the results of a blood test she ordered since I was unable to get pregnant during the past year.
My doctor diagnosed me with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a disorder I’d never heard of before. Besides infertility and high androgen levels, I didn’t have any other symptoms, which is why I was never diagnosed.
This was in 2003, before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other popular social media platforms existed. Blogs were in their initial stages with only 23(!) blogs in 1999. The early blogs focused on politics instead of issues like not being able to get pregnant.
I remember searching for articles on the internet about infertility only to find nothing. I then went to the library and rifled through back issues of magazines, hoping to find articles about PCOS or pregnancy success stories after having difficulty.
I looked for information because I felt isolated and confused. I didn’t know anyone else that had also experienced infertility — even though it’s common.
Over 6 million U.S. women ages 15 to 44 have difficulty getting or staying pregnant. A recent survey even said that 33 percent of American adults reported that they or someone they know has used some type of fertility treatment in order to try to have a baby.
When Dr. Amy Beckley, a pharmacologist, and founder and CEO of Proov, experienced infertility in 2006, she didn’t share what she was going through with people she knew.
“I didn’t want to tell anyone, and I felt very alone. I hid doctor’s appointments from my boss and called in sick for IVF treatments. No one knew what I was going through,” says Beckley.
In 2011 when Amy Klein, author of “The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind,” began treatments, she was unable to find any relevant information online.
“I tried to find articles but there wasn’t much back then, just crazy motherboards and nothing very helpful,” says Klein.
Since no one was sharing their struggles, Klein decided to write a Fertility Diary column for The New York Times Motherlode.
“I couldn’t believe there wasn’t mainstream information out there. No one was writing about infertility, so I did. Some people thought I was crazy for sharing this stuff, but I was hoping to help others in my situation or help other people understand what people like me were going through,” Klein says.
Klein went on, “Some readers were upset that I wasn’t educated enough, but I was trying to give the feeling of what a typical fertility treatment was like. There were many women who wrote to me to thank me for writing about my experience.”
Now if you search the internet for infertility blogs, there’s an overwhelming amount to choose from. Healthline even created a list of the best infertility blogs in 2019 that lists 13 different blogs.
“In between the time I went through infertility and then started writing [about] it, things changed drastically. Online it went from no information to so much information,” says Klein.
She has noticed that now there are more conversations in public about it like on TV shows or in the movies. She also points out that even celebrities are willing to share their struggles with infertility.
When Dr. Nichelle Haynes, a perinatal psychiatrist, went through infertility treatments in 2016, she decided to talk openly about it.
“I made the decision to be open with my loved ones about my struggles. This helped me find support within my community. Thankfully, the trying-to-conceive community has vocal physicians that have been more active online in bringing awareness to this common problem, so I think women in general are finding more support than ever before,” says Haynes.
“Through my account I was able to connect with women who were in the same phase as me, women who were just a few steps ahead of me, and women who were behind me in the process. I felt more support through the online community than I did through my family and friends. Through Instagram I also found other support groups which have been incredibly helpful through this time,” says Caron.
She explains that she feels lucky she went through her journey during a time where social media exists.
Samantha Kellgren, owner of Simply Well Coaching, began in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments in 2017.
“When I opened up about my experience, I found others who were going through it or went through it. It really helped me to have an outlet to ask questions about specifics like injections, or general feelings like how they dealt with anxiety around getting test results back,” says Kellgren.
A 2012 research study found that the internet has helped people going through infertility treatments to share information and create supportive communities.
Even though I didn’t have these resources 17 years ago, I’m happy that other women are able to find support online and that they’re able to openly discuss their struggles.
Going through infertility treatments is incredibly difficult — but having support makes it less daunting.
Cheryl Maguire holds a Master of Counseling Psychology degree. She’s married and is the mother of twins and a daughter. Her writing has been published in Parents Magazine, Upworthy, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings,” and Your Teen Magazine. You can find her on Twitter.