You said what?!? Most of us have a friend who’s trying to get pregnant. With 1 in 8 couples experiencing infertility, you probably have friends right now who are undergoing fertility treatment. But what do you to say to a friend who’s experiencing infertility? If you haven’t been through it yourself, or it’s been a long time since you did, you might blunder into saying something incredibly painful. Studies show that experiencing infertility can be as acutely stressful as undergoing cancer treatment. Friends and family can make things much worse.
“I have some friends who finally got pregnant when they tried… (insert treatment here).” You might feel tempted to offer advice, but unless they’re specifically coming to you for advice, or you happen to be an infertility specialist, your advice will likely do more harm than good. You job is not to fix the problem—that’s the job of an infertility specialist. Just because you have 3 kids yourself doesn’t mean you know how to reverse infertility. If your friend is over the age of 35, or has been trying to conceive for a year, it’s time to see a fertility specialist.
“You’re so lucky you aren’t pregnant right now because my pregnancy is making me so uncomfortable and tired all the time.” Ouch. If your friend is trying to get pregnant, your words will come across as cutting and insensitive. Never say your friend is lucky to be childless, or that it’s a good thing that things are working out differently than he or she planned. And especially avoid this if you’re pregnant yourself.
“Why don’t you try IVF?” Without knowing your friends’ particular infertility issues (and don’t expect them to divulge them), or their financial resources, you are pushing your friend into a defensive position by accusing them of not doing everything possible to have a baby. IVF is expensive if not covered by insurance; it’s also not the only infertility treatment out there. By bringing up this question you’re stumbling into a financial discussion your friend may not wish to have with you.
“Have you considered adoption?” Making the assumption that your friend has exhausted the possibilities of science in conceiving a baby is not your call to make. This is a personal decision your friends will come to when they feel it’s best.
“So is it your fault or your husband’s?” Asking for detailed particulars about the causes of infertility is getting way too personal for most people. There are many things that your friend may not want to discuss with you (sperm count, STDs, weight problems, etc.).
“You already have one child, so why are you so upset over this?” Couples experiencing secondary infertility (which occurs after they’ve had one or more children) go through the same pain and disappointment that couples with no children experience. Do not minimize the disruption that this has caused in their lives.
“Maybe you’re better off not being parents—you’ll have more fun in life.” If your friends are pursing the dream of being parents, they aren’t going to suddenly change their minds by hearing how stressful it is to raise children. Assume that they are intelligent people and respect their decisions.
“You should just relax about the baby thing.” One of the most common complaints women who are trying to get pregnant make is that friends and family blame them or their high stress lifestyle for the couple’s childlessness. The best thing you can do for friends who are struggling with infertility is to offer friendship and support without any judgment.
“Did you hear about…” Don’t gossip about your friend who’s trying to get pregnant, or spread gossip about others who are going through infertility. If you’ve been trusted with this personal information, be respectful and don’t share information that will make your friend uncomfortable.
Learning a bit about infertility can help you avoid many of the errors and faux pas that make infertility such an emotionally painful issue. Extend support to both men and women—studies show that women are more likely to receive support and that men often suffer silently. Be aware that holiday gatherings can be particularly difficult situations for couples trying to get pregnant. Thoughtless comments about “choosing a career over a family” or teasing about when a couple will “finally have a baby” can send someone who’s dealing with infertility into depression for weeks.
Doctors advise that if a couple hasn’t conceived within 12 months, they should seek treatment from a fertility specialist. If the woman is over 35, they should seek treatment after 6 months. About 1/3 of infertility cases are due to issues with the woman, 1/3 from issues with the man, and 1/3 of cases are due to a combination of problems or for unexplained reasons. At Santa Monica Fertility Clinic, we specialize in helping build families through holistic infertility treatments and state-of-the-art technology. If you would like to schedule an initial consultation, and start your journey to parenthood, please contact us.
Sources: Cousineau TM, et al. “Psychological Impact of Infertility,” Best Practice & Research: Clinical Obstetrics and Gynaecology (April 2007): Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 293–308. http://www.bestpracticeobgyn.com/article/S1521-6934(06)00161-1/abstractContact SMF Today