Are You a Pregnant Cyberchondriac?

Megan Van Schaick

pregnancy cyberchondriaWhen you are pregnant for the first time or trying to conceive, it’s completely normal to want to soak up every single piece of information you can. After all, this is a baby we’re talking about! Everything is new and strange -- new feelings, sensations, pains. Of course when something like that happens, you want answers, you want to know what it means, if it’s something bad. Doctors aren’t always immediately available, but the Internet is.

And that’s where we get into trouble.

  • Do you make the rounds of all the pregnancy sites several times a day?
  • Do you scour the message boards in search of information about a symptom you are having?
  • Have you turned WebMD’s symptom checker into a customized widget for your desktop, iPhone, and blog?
  • Is your diagnostic tool of choice a search engine?

If you answered yes to any of these, then congratulations! You’re a cyberchondriac!

There is so much information out there, much of it conflicting and much of it blown way out of proportion. Just as a test, I searched for “hand tremor” online (which I get thanks to a certain medication). Well, it turns out I also have ALS, Parkinson’s, delirium tremens (from that nasty alcohol withdrawal), Roussy Levy Areflexic Dystasia, and lithium poisoning, which, incidentally, causes an excess of amniotic fluid. Oh my god! Am I pregnant!?

See how that works? The implantation spotting you're experiencing is probably not a miscarriage, or ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy, or even early placental abruption. It’s just implantation spotting. But if you were to check the message boards, you’d find hundreds of women telling horror stories about their spotting experience. Even the American Pregnancy Association tells you a zillion different causes for the bleeding, each more terrifying than the first. Wouldn’t it just be easier to call your doctor and get an expert opinion?

The point is, you should be enjoying your pregnancy, not panicking your way through it. The Internet is an immensely valuable tool, there's no question. But when it comes to diagnoses, trust your doctor or midwife, and trust yourself, not some website (not even well-respected ones). Spend your time doing all the fun pregnancy things you can do, and unplug, at least for a while.

Are you a pregnant cyberchondriac?


Image via Tourist On Earth/Flickr

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