Recently, I have been checking out the big infertility/fertility message board communities. I never thought that much about fertility message boards until recently. After all, I was familiar with them - I ran them when I was the Executive Director at The American Fertility Association.
They seemed pretty straightforward to me. Patients got to post questions to reproductive endocrinologists and other fertility experts and the experts answered them.
People who were experiencing reproductive difficulties could connect with each other and find support and comfort in each other. There was nothing complicated about that, but then I found out that there was an underbelly to many of the fertility message boards that floated around the country, and the underbelly was not transparent to the unsuspecting user.
People are seeding some of the message boards out there. Well, to speak frankly, there are people who work in the infertility community who spend a lot of time reading these message boards, pretend to be patients, and direct patients to their own IVF Centers!
When I found this out by listening to some of the very people who were doing this, I wanted to go shower. They think that they are clever marketers and some even think that they are helping patients by "listening in" to what the patients are talking about and then stepping in with referrals and loaded advice. To me, it is cyber ambulance chasing.
I know this is hard to believe, but I promise you it is true. So how do you know if you are talking to another patient or an impostor? I don't have an answer to that.
Fertility message boards can be a wonderful source of information for fertility patients, especially when they are able to ask questions directly from a doctor or other expert.
I want to be clear that I am not knocking message boards. They serve a great purpose. I am a supporter!
And, perhaps on many message boards that are run by patient groups and fertility centers who put their name on their message boards, it is can seem much clearer on who you are talking to.