Struggling to get pregnant is frustrating and can be very difficult. When your friend or loved one is struggling with getting pregnant, an infertility diagnosis, or fertility treatment, the best thing you to do may not be clear. In some situations offering loving support can be well received and in others it may be best to not do anything at all.
One in eight couples of child bearing age will struggle in their quest to become parents. The likelihood is someone you know has struggled with fertility. Their path may include simple non-invasive fertility treatments like IUI, more invasive fertility treatments like IVF, or third party reproductive endocrinology like egg donation or surrogacy. In the process joy, confidence and hope can be hard to come by, leaving a vulnerable and emotionally sensitive man or woman. No matter how well-meaning, unsolicited advice can increase a couple’s stress and contribute to conception problems. Sometimes the best option is to just be there. Letting them know you are there may be just what they need.
Infertility is emotionally, psychologically and physically challenging. Invisible losses, failed treatments and inadequate financial means can aggravate or deteriorate family relationships. It’s important that they stay strong and optimistic.
Miscarriage is psychologically painful. Each new month brings hope that the next time will bring success. When the next month brings more bad news, grief and despair replace hope. They feel isolated and alone.
Infertility testing and treatments are expensive, emotionally and physical painful and embarrassing.
When a loved one or friend shares with you, they are asking for your support and understanding. While this may be distressing to you, the goal is to show support in difficult times. Be mindful of your response. When you are challenged on what to say, just listen. Respond with a hug, make eye contact and show them that you are listening.
What not to say or do
Don’t tell intended parents to relax, don’t minimize the problem, don’t question their choices, don’t assume what worked for one couple will work for your friend or loved one, and don’t offer advice unless you are asked. Learn to read cues that suggest things are going well or not. Don’t discuss age, and the couple’s life choices. Don’t offer words of encouragement that are hollow.
Don’t come across as judgmental. Don’t ask how they will pay for infertility treatments, or ask if they have tried something that helped someone you know. Don’t question their choices. Don’t ask questions that can trigger defensiveness or unnecessary stress.
What to do and say
Acknowledge their feelings. Be sensitive to their pain and stress. Be compassionate. Acknowledge their physical and emotional pain, offer emotional support and understanding, and respect and support their choices. Be a good listener. Let them cry on your shoulder. Let them know you care. Be positive, offer reassurance and show confidence in your friend or loved one’s positive attributes and choices. Practice empathy.
When you are a family member or parents of an infertile couple, never take sides, blame or criticize. Value the couple and respect their boundaries. Stressful events like infertility tend to reveal long-standing tensions in the relationship. Keep the lines of communication open and be there without judgment. Pay attention to your own feeling of anxiety and sadness and while you can honestly express these feeling, but recognize when you might need some support of your own.
If you are a friend to whom your loved one confides, respect their privacy, and validate their feelings. Offer support and ask them what they need. Ask what you can do to help. Offer to listen, whenever needed. Acknowledge that you don’t know how to comfort them. When you accidently say something that may be hurtful, and realize it, apologize quickly. Reduce exposure to kid and pregnancy talk.
Depending on where they are in the process, accept it. Their decisions are personal and you cannot and should not try to change that. Undergoing IVF makes intended parents vulnerable to anxiety and depression.
Give them permission to skip baby showers, birthday parties, etc.
In all cases, ask if they would like you to accompany them to difficult appointments. If there are older children, offer to watch them so the parents can go to appointments.
Accepting infertility is akin to the loss of a loved one, and comes in stages from denial, to anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Develop the bandwidth to deal with your own stuff, so you can be there for your friend or love one struggling with infertility. This can make the situation more bearable, and ameliorate the pain, heartbreak and isolation.
Ohio Reproductive Medicine in Columbus, Ohio is the oldest and best fertility clinic is central Ohio. We understand infertility is an intensely private struggle filled with frustration and uncertainty. Emotional issues related to femininity and motherhood, and masculinity and fatherhood can provoke feelings of anger, guilt, anxiety, shame and sadness. The treatments can be a source of financial, emotional and physical distress, and can strain a couple’s relationship. For that reason, we have an in house licensed counselor to help you through these challenges. We are dedicated to successfully resolving your fertility issues.
When you need help, you can count on the board-certified reproductive endocrinologists and fertility experts at Ohio Reproductive Medicine to provide you with effective, supportive, compassionate care.