How Friends and Family Can Support Those Going Through Infertility
It is very likely that someone you know has gone through or is currently going through treatments for infertility. In the United States, 1 in 8 couples has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. While infertility is a fairly common condition, society has not yet normalized the conversation surrounding it. This can make it challenging to know what to say to someone who is going through fertility treatments. Oftentimes, couples going through fertility treatments may take years to resolve their family building journey. As a friend or family member, it’s important to keep in mind that your role as a support never waivers, but how you offer support may change during that time.
Take note – the type of support they need may change. It’s important to continuously communicate with your friend or family member who is receiving fertility treatment so you know how best to help and support them.While you may have the best of intentions when trying to support someone going through infertility, you may find yourself struggling to find the right language to use. Below are a few examples of phrases you should avoid and the alternatives you can consider when speaking with a friend or family member: Instead of saying, “Just relax. It will happen!” Considering saying, “That sounds incredibly difficult. Would it be helpful for you if I keep checking in or would you prefer to bring it up yourself?” Instead of saying, “It’s because you exercise too much and work too hard.” Consider saying, “I am so sorry you are going through this. How can I help? What can I do?” Instead of saying, “Why don’t you just adopt?” Consider saying, “Thank you for sharing your experience with me. I feel honored you trusted me with this information. Please let me know how I can support you. Would you like me to text or call you? Should I let you take the lead in bringing it up in conversation?” By using these alternative phrases, you demonstrate a sincere interest in their condition without being prying or overbearing. Try not to get too caught up with saying the right thing and instead, focus on the bigger ideas – you are providing support and you want to let them guide the conversation. * If you have little experience with infertility, it might be helpful to do some research. Reading literature that has been published, understanding various treatment options, and being knowledgeable about current topics in reproductive health will make you a trusted confidante for your friend or family member. If and when they need to speak with someone, you will already be informed and ready to have a smart and productive conversation.
Keep in mind your friend or family member will need time and space to feel the range of thoughts and emotions they will most likely experience as they undergo treatment. They might even avoid certain social gatherings they find difficult to attend, especially if they involve children. Be sensitive and let them know that you are committed to preserving your friendship. This will help create a space for honest discussion when they need it.