How to Support Loved Ones Experiencing Infertility

Infertility issues are hard. Here’s how to make sure you’re a positive presence in your loved ones’ lives.

Not everyone can have children, which is a very unfortunate thing. Infertility can be totally crushing to women, who feel they can’t perform their main, biological duty. There are thousands of couples each year who wish to be parents, but infertility gets in the way for one or both of them. Infertility can lead to arguments, loss of relationships, depression, or even anxiety.

At ISC, we strive to provide a supportive and compassionate environment for all of our Intended Parents since we understand that this can be such an emotional time. Read on for some of the strategies we use to support those experiencing infertility and considering surrogacy as a way to grow their family. It’s important they know that they will be ok, and that they are loved and supported by friends and family members.

Don’t Put Pressure on Anyone

Couples are frequently asked when they’re going to expand their family or teased that “it’s time”. It’s tempting, but often parents who are eager to become grandparents put pressure on their children. Some parents will even go so far as to purchase and wrap up baby clothing to gift to their kids as a “hint” that they should “get to work.”

Although these gestures are made with good intentions, loved ones often times don’t realize that children are delayed because the couple is struggling with infertility. Nothing puts more pressure on a couple than constant poking and prodding with personal questions. The couple feels as though they are letting everyone down and this just adds more stress to an already stressful experience.

Be In the Know

If your friends or family members have opened up to you about infertility, it’s smart to read up about the issue. Educate yourself about facts and figures to better understand. Learn more about common procedures like IVF and learn what can be expected as someone undergoes treatment. Explore other options available for expanding a family, like adoption or surrogacy.

This will be eye opening and will help you empathize with the situation at hand and understand all the decisions your loved ones are going to have to make.

Be Available

Sometimes, your friend or family member will want or need you to attend some of their infertility appointments with them. Make it a point to be available so they understand that they are not alone in the process.

If your friend or family member isn’t very forthcoming, but you know they are seeing a fertility doctor, simply let them know that you’re available to attend any appointments with them if they’d like you to. It’s a great way to open the lines of communication without pushing.

Do Something Special Together

People struggling with their fertility have baby constantly on the brain. They often aren’t relaxed and they don’t act like themselves because they are struggling with so many emotions. Be a good friend and try to take their mind off becoming a parent for a little bit by taking them out to their favorite restaurant, enjoying a shopping excursion, taking in a show, or even going on a weekend getaway to relieve some stress and take their mind off their worries.

Turn to Alternatives

Some women swear by alternative practices when they’re struggling with infertility. Book your friend or family member an appointment with an acupuncturist, a massage therapist, or even a reflexologist. Your friend or loved one will be impressed with your gesture and will enjoy a relaxing and therapeutic day out.

Don’t Use Trigger Phrases

When some couples are in the midst of receiving treatment or making tough decisions about how best to grow their family, emotions run high. There are some phrases and topics that, while usually delivered with good intentions, can upset couples experiencing infertility issues. Some phrases that you should not use are:

  • “Relax-it will happen.” Sometimes it will happen for folks who are seeking help. Other times, it will not. It’s important to be realistic about the outcome, as each couple is different.
  • “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle.” This can infuriate a trying couple for a number of reasons. Be sensitive to their feelings and needs at this time.
  • “You need to keep trying.” It’s not your position to judge what your friend or family member is or is not doing. It’s up to the couple to decide when to stop trying and which treatment they’ll undergo, if any. Some couples will try for many years, while others can bear to try more than a few procedures. Be understanding and supportive.
  • “At least you’re young.” Age isn’t always the end all be all factor with infertility. Infertility can happen for a number of reasons and at a wide range of ages. Don’t create false hope for a couple.
  • “What are you waiting for?” Many people don’t realize that those who are infertile aren’t trying to wait at all. All they do is plan and try. Hearing a phrase like this is deeply hurtful and deeply frustrating, especially if the person asking is already a parent.
  • “You’re so lucky not to have kids!” This is an incredibly insensitive statement to make to someone who does not have children (and if you do). You may not be aware that they aren’t without children by choice. Often times, couples feel quite the contrary, and rubbing it in and making it look like you aren’t happy or appreciative for having your own children can be deeply upsetting to a struggling couple.

Use Positive Language

Instead of engaging in some of the phrases to avoid above, consider keeping conversations upbeat, open, and understanding. If someone has opened up to you about their baby struggles, use language or phrases such as:

  • “How can I help you?” Some couples speak up about their struggles because they want help. Maybe they want a buddy to go to their treatments with, or an ear to talk to (or a shoulder to cry on). They may even want you to not talk about it at all and help them forget about their stressors.
  • “I Can’t Imagine What You’re Going Through.” Everyone’s experience with infertility is different and deeply personal. Don’t pretend that you know how they feel. Acknowledge their circumstance but don’t try to analyze their test results, doctor visits, or prognosis.
  • “Let’s Do Something You Enjoy.” A great friend or family member tries to take some of the focus off of the pain and emotions that are associated with infertility. You should not only take them out of a frustrating environment, but you should do something that focuses solely on something they want to do; giving them control in a situation (because right now they are feeling very out of control).

Don’t Gossip

If someone has confided in you about their fertility struggles, keep it to yourself. Gossiping about someone’s misfortunes is a terrible thing to do, and can only make matters worse. Whomever is going through the fertility struggle will decide who they want to open up to about it and when. Don’t take that moment away from them and don’t upset anyone more than they already are.

If you know or suspect someone you love is having fertility problems, consider some of the tips above to be there for them and to ensure that you do and say the right things in this very difficult time.