Infertility; isolation and the Internet: a qualitative interview study.
Hinton L., Kurinczuk JJ., Ziebland S.
OBJECTIVES: This study explores the roles and meanings of the Internet, which is commonly used in this age group, as a source of support for people with fertility problems. METHODS: A qualitative interview study with 27 women and 11 men who had been, or were going, through treatment for infertility. A maximum variation sample was sought. Narrative interviews were conducted and transcribed for thematic analysis. RESULTS: Women and men with fertility problems often feel isolated. The Internet offers anonymity, emotional support, normalisation and reassurance. It also offers the prospect of niche support from others going through treatments at the same time and in similar circumstances. Online infertility networks can play a valuable role in helping people deal with the emotional stresses and isolation they feel during and after treatment, but has the potential to reinforce isolation. CONCLUSIONS: The Internet is changing people's experience of infertility, giving people access to other's experiences. Internet communication is highly valued by couples, especially those isolated in their real world relationships. PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Clinicians can help by referring couples to websites while being aware that increasingly 'niche' support could compound isolation.