Few things feel as lonely as infertility, especially when it seems everyone around you has a growing belly or a baby in their arms.
Fertility treatments can be a long process, full of anxiety, worry, and hopefully one day, joy. If a friend is going through treatment, what she needs more than anything is your support and understanding. And one of the easiest ways to help is to choose your words wisely. While you can’t take away the heartache of infertility, you can help make it hurt just a little bit less.
What to Not Say
“Just relax. It’ll happen.”
It would be great if getting pregnant was as easy as taking a vacation. Infertility is a physical condition that affects one in eight couples and most often requires medical intervention. While relaxation techniques can help ease the emotional stress of infertility, it can’t magically kick one’s body into conception mode.
“Why don’t you just adopt instead?”
Parenthood is a big decision with many factors to consider. Adoption may be an option for them, but if a couple is going through the time and expense of fertility treatments, be supportive of their journey instead of questioning why they’re doing it.
“Ugh, my ankles are so swollen.”
Pregnancy comes with side effects that can be uncomfortable and painful. But someone going through fertility treatments would give anything for swollen ankles and morning sickness. If you’re pregnant yourself, feel free to vent away, but maybe to someone else.
“Be grateful for the child you have.”
If your friend already has a child, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want another child any less. Only she knows when her family is complete. Also, avoid other comments that minimize her issues, such as “At least you don’t have to be up all night with a screaming baby” or “Now you can travel anywhere you want!”
“God has other plans for you.”
Many patients have heard this phrase or the other variation – “Maybe it’s just meant to be.” Like the thousands of other medical conditions people experience, infertility is a physical issue, not a punishment or a sentence. If you wouldn’t say it to a patient battling cancer, you shouldn’t say it to someone battling infertility.
What to Say
“I understand if you don’t feel like coming.”
Children’s birthday parties and baby showers can be too hard for your friend to handle right now. If she’s too emotional to come, be compassionate. Instead, invite her out to dinner or to a movie where baby talk is off the table unless she wants to discuss it.
“I’ve been learning about IVF and IUI.”
Educate yourself on what your friend is going through. If she does want to talk about her treatment, you can be more knowledgeable about the procedures and side effects so you better understand her struggles.
“What can I pick you up at the store?”
Fertility treatments can take a lot out of someone physically and emotionally. If your friend is tired or sad, offer to help out around the house. Mow the yard. Take her older children while she’s at appointments. Make dinner for the family one night. Being specific over a general “How can I help?” makes it easier for her to say “yes”.
“How can I help your spouse/partner?”
The patient’s spouse/partner feels the stress of fertility treatments just like their partners. However, many often don’t have the support system the patient does. Offer a shoulder to lean on when the partner is feeling overwhelmed by the experience.
“I love you. I’m thinking of you. I care about you.”
Something has simple as a text, phone call or card lets your friend know she’s never alone. Make a special effort to reach out on those days that can be extra hard, such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or other family holidays.
One of the best things you can do is learn more about infertility – visit our Treatment section for information on IVF, IUI and fertility preservation.