Today’s guest blogger is Mary Williams. Did you know 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility? She is sharing 8 things NOT to say to someone struggling with infertility and 4 things to say. (I think I might be guilty of at least one of these).
There’s a good chance you know someone, or of someone, who is struggling with infertility. If you’ve never experienced infertility, it might be easy to assume it’s someone’s fault or there’s an easy solution the couple hasn’t tried.
However, infertility can be extremely complicated and it’s important to realize infertility is never anyone’s fault. Just like when someone gets sick, you don’t assume the person who is sick did something to make that happen.
Here are 8 things NOT to say to someone struggling with infertility.
- Just relax and you’ll get pregnant!
Infertility is a medical condition, not just a feeling or emotion. Telling the couple to just relax can make them feel guilty and add to their stress. Many couples were relaxed when they first started trying, and it didn’t work then. Something else is going on.
- If it’ll happen, it’ll happen!
“Just be patient.” “Have faith!” It’s not easy to keep the faith after trying to get pregnant for months or maybe years. Struggling with infertility can be a very long process and telling the couple to just be patient after months of treatment can be hurtful. Transferring blame to a “greater power” can make things worse.
- Just adopt!
Adopting a child is a major decision and completely up to the couple. Honestly, adoption is not the right choice for everyone. We all know someone who adopted and then became pregnant. There’s no need to tell a couple struggling with infertility that story because every couple is different.
- Just do IVF!
If you’re discussing with a couple and talking about IVF comes up, that’s different. But just telling someone to try a costly and potentially long treatment can be insensitive. IVF is not for everyone. Their healthcare provider has discussed all treatment options with them.
- What if you try IVF and end up with sextuplets?
This is a silly thing to ask someone struggling with infertility. If IVF comes up in the discussion, please don’t ask this. Everyone’s journey is different. This is something that providers diligently discuss with clients and careful, responsible providers, use precautions to try to prevent increased risk to mothers and babies that comes with high number multiples.
- Which one of you is infertile?
Infertility is 40% women, 40% men, and 20% both or unexplained. Infertility is no one’s fault and there is no reason to blame one of the partners. If one of the them has a medical condition that is contributing to their infertility, you assigning or drawing attention to the blame can deeply hurt.
- When do you think you’ll give up trying?
This can seem like asking a cancer patient when they are giving up cancer treatments. Everyone’s journey is different and the couple will decide when and if they will give up or take a break from trying.
- You’re lucky you don’t have kids!
When you say this to someone with infertility, it can seem very insensitive. At that moment, they don’t feel lucky at all. You might have made them feel sad because you’ve just reminded them that you are blessed with children and they have not been yet.
Here are 5 things to say or do to someone struggling with infertility.
- Are you doing okay?
Ask how they are doing in their fertility process and listen when they answer. If they don’t want to talk about it, that’s okay too. You’ve let them know you care and are available to talk if they want to.
- I support your decision.
Couples struggling with infertility get a lot of unwanted advice, stories, and “solutions”. Sometimes it’s great to hear “I support your decision” and not “I think you should do this”.
- You’re so brave.
Coping with infertility can be an extremely difficult time. It’s easy to give up. However, if someone you know is trying, then it’s okay to let them know they’re brave and they have your support.
- Educate yourself.
If someone close to you is struggling with infertility, it’s important to do some research. Not to dump a bunch of advice on them, but to have some knowledge of the couple’s situation and to learn about common myths. A great place to start is Resolve.org.
Finally, Be Respectful
Many people who have been going through fertility issues have been doing so in silence for a while. They may feel like they want someone to talk to. They don’t want your advice or input, maybe just someone to talk to.
Also respect their privacy. Everyone’s fertility is their own private business. No one would ask you about your sex life in a work break room or at the water cooler. People’s fertility is a private matter and the way they manage this is also private. It is not something that you should be talking about with other friends, family or coworkers.
Mary Williams is a board-certified nurse midwife, CNM, APNP at the Kaldas Center in Neenah, Wisconsin. She cares for women out of love and focuses on holistic patient-oriented pregnancy care. When not helping her patients, Mary keeps busy outside of work with her husband, kids and family dog.