Dr. Facebook Will (NOT) See You Now

Pregnant woman staring in frustration at her cell phone

Monday, 4:30 am. A new mom posts to Facebook that she is struggling with her baby being fussy at nighttime feedings. Within 2 hours, she has received four different diagnoses from fellow Facebookers: Dairy allergy, thrush, lip and tongue tie, and reflux. She’s been prescribed probiotics, gentian violet, nystatin, 4 different herbs, and a plastic device to help her baby pass gas.

Tuesday, 8:43 pm A 32 week pregnant mom posts to Facebook that she’s having lots of mucousy disharge tinged with blood. She’s had some “super sized Braxton Hicks” all afternoon. She just wants to know if this is normal, and doesn’t want to bother her doctor. She is assured several times that it is normal and the mucous plug will regenerate.

Wednesday: 1 pm New mom posts a blurry photo of her baby’s mouth with the lips held back while baby cries. “Does this look like a tie to you?” Dozens of responses within an hour, all agreeing that yes, that is a severe tie and mom needs to get it revised immediately. Recommendations for ENTs and pediatric dentists are given out, mom starts giving formula while waiting to get it revised.

Just an average couple of days on Facebook. I’ve noticed a trend lately – people posting to Facebook with their medical concerns instead of taking them to a provider. And it’s not good. The amount of conflicting and outright bad advice that is given over Facebook is a little frightening. Expectant and new parents find themselves more confused than ever at best, and damaged by bad advice at worst.

That mom from Monday ended up feeling very confused and not knowing what to do for her baby. Tuesday’s mom believed all the reassurance and stayed home and went to bed. During the night she unexpectedly delivered a preemie at home and her baby was unstable in the NICU when she checked in the next day. The mom from Wednesday called and set up an appointment for a tongue tie revision, only to find out when she got there that the doctor did not see any ties at all.

None of these moms was actually helped by their interactions on Facebook. A better option for each of them would have been an in person visit with someone qualified to help them.

I do understand that not everyone has the money for a visit with an IBCLC or a midwife – but in the case of Wednesday’s mom, she could have paid an IBCLC half what the surgeon charged and had a full evaluation to find and get advice for remedying the *real* issues. Instead she paid twice as much and had no idea what was going on.

Tuesday’s mom may have been able to avoid an expensive (and scary) NICU stay for her son if she had called her midwife and gone in to try and stop labor.

As a childbirth educator, I avoid diagnosing and prescribing because they are not within the scope of my job. This applies to my client work AND to my social media interactions. I’m likely to say “That is a great question for your midwife.” or “I think you would benefit from talking to a good IBCLC for a thorough evaluation.” and give out a number for a good one in their area.

1 thought on “Dr. Facebook Will (NOT) See You Now”

  1. Yes! I’m trying to take a line from you and get in those kinds of posts with a solid, “Sounds like the perfect question to ask your provider.” I know it’s not what they want to hear, but it’s the best answer! As a new doula, I was eager to get in on the action, but with time comes the understanding that Facebook does not, in fact, make a very good doctor at all. Thanks for the reminder!

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