Talking About Infertility — Advice for Friends & Family Members
Unlike the birds and the bees, infertility isn’t something we all learn about as kids, so it’s not surprising that many are still uninformed about it. As a loved one, you have good intentions — unfortunately, by not knowing what to say or how to approach the situation, you may accidentally say the wrong thing.
To help avoid awkward conversations, we asked our own ACRM community to share their advice on proper infertility etiquette:
Don’t say “Have you considered adoption?”
“I mean, really, anyone going through infertility has considered all options.” -KRI
Adoption can be a wonderful way to start or grow a family — but it may not be for everyone. Before a couple can look towards adoption, they must first grieve for the loss of their biological child. If they’re still wondering “what if” or wishing they could have a biological child, they are not ready to completely invest in adoption.
It’s important to remember that adoption isn’t a bandaid for infertility or a guarantee for parenthood — it’s a long road and sometimes even when a couple is fully ready, it still doesn’t work out.
Do listen and let them know you care
“I have several friends who are always checking on me and how I’m feeling. It helps to know you have people in your corner.” -JBJ
“Be there for the couple. Yes, it is super difficult for the woman [in the case of female factor] because she questions why her body won't work, but her significant other needs support as it isn't easy dealing with a woman who isn't happy with her body not being able to have a baby the "normal" way.” - SL
Be there for a supportive hug, be there for a vent sesh, but also, don’t exclude them from your plans — continue inviting them places, plan a spa day, or whatever else you normally would do. Keeping them in good spirits is key.
Don’t give unwanted advice
“You just need to relax” - ABK
“We know how babies are made, and it isn’t by ‘relaxing’ or ‘taking a vacation’ or ‘worrying less’ and it def doesn’t happen when you ‘just stop trying.’ If you aren’t sure what to say, just support.” - JRK
While reducing stress and increasing relaxation are both important for the fertility journey, relaxation doesn’t cure medically diagnosed infertility.
For more insight, it may take fertile couples in their 20s and early 30s up to a year to get pregnant. This year wait helps to separate the couples who may be truly infertile from those who do just need to “relax.”
While we know you have good intentions in your heart, encouraging that the couple’s “day will come” or sharing a miracle story of “my cousin’s boss’s son’s best friend’s sister relaxed and she got pregnant,” may not be their reality.
If it’s been over a year and a couple is still struggling to conceive, meeting with a fertility specialist is the next step.
Do understand just how bad it truly hurts
“It's not just emotional pain, but it's also a physical pain that hurts every inch of you.” - AJ
“At times it just hurts and is gut-wrenching. Not only for you but also for your partner.” - EJ
Know that your loved ones are going through very difficult times due to infertility. This may mean your loved ones opt to skip a family event or may not always want to talk about their progress (or lack thereof). They’ll need your endless support and love throughout this process.
Don't be afraid to ask questions
“We're proud of what we went through and talking about it educates others in the process. It's surprising how many people really don't understand how IVF works and why it's an excellent option for so many couples struggling to start a family.” - MS
Remember, those diagnosed with infertility may not have initially been well-versed themselves, so asking them questions can help you understand a bit more. But it's important to remember that not everyone shares the same sentiment, so while some are comfortable talking about their journey others may shy away from the topic.
While not everyone may want to talk, these are some tried and true questions to ask:
- You’re probably tired of explaining this, I want to help support you — do you have any recommendations for resources where I can learn more about what you’re going through?
- While I can’t fully understand what you’re going through, what’s the best way I can be there for you?
- I’m here for you whenever you’re ready. How can I help?
Some of the easiest things you can do for your infertile friends are listening to their struggles and showing that you care. Remember that there are two people involved here, both are dealing with some difficult emotions. Make sure they know they’re not alone — it’s a difficult journey, but when they have people who care and support them, it gets a little easier.