More than seven million U.S. women of childbearing age experience infertility – a very sensitive topic for both the women experiencing it and the people who love them. If someone you love is struggling to conceive a child, it may be difficult for you to know how to provide support. Knowing what to say – and what not to say – is key.
Don’t tell them to relax
“Relaxation itself is not a cure for infertility,” said Joseph Garza, M.D., chief fertility officer at the Advanced Fertility Center, San Antonio. “Suggesting that a woman “just relax” not only makes her feel as if she’s doing something wrong, but also disregards the fact that there may be more serious physical complications preventing her from conceiving.”
Don’t complain about your pregnancy
We know: pregnancies are loaded with uncomfortable occurences, from stretch marks to morning sickness and rapidly changing hormones. But your friend struggling with infertility looks at all these discomforts and thinks about how much she wishes she could experience them herself. Try to be sensitive to her situation and avoid venting to her about your own experiences. And realize how much it speaks to your friendship that your friend is willing to work through her own pain to share in your joy.
Don’t say “things could be worse”
“Infertility isn’t a situation that needs to be put into perspective,” Dr. Garza said. “The odds are likely that you don’t fully understand how much conceiving means to your friend.” Comments made that may mean well often minimize what a woman struggling with infertility is actually experiencing. Everyone has a different perspective on how “things could be worse” and, to a woman who has waited her whole life to become a mother, infertility may actually be the “worst” thing that could happen. “Offer comfort, not perspective,” Dr. Garza suggested.
Let them know you care
Caring for someone experiencing infertility will manifest in many forms. “You know your friend best,” Dr. Garza said. “Comfort her in a way you know will be soothing: call to check in, let her know you’re praying for her, really listen to her when she talks about what she’s experiencing.” Having friends show they care makes a woman struggling to conceive feel as though she’s not going through this alone.
Help them find support from others
In-person and online support groups can be very helpful for both men and women experiencing infertility. Googling “infertility support groups” for a specific region will return a number of results about support groups and individual counselors who can offer comfort and community during what may feel like a very isolating time. “You can help empower your friend to find external support from people in similar situations,” Dr. Garza said.
Most importantly, remember that compassionately addressing infertility helps remove any negative stigma surrounding it. “Be sensitive and caring to your friend during this time,” Dr. Garza urged. “Regardless of the outcome, they’ll remember the kindness they were showed.”