4 July 2024

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5 Tips to Support Someone Experiencing Infertility

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Do you find it difficult to broach the topic of infertility and how challenging it is to find the right words to say? Navigating conversations with someone experiencing infertility can be sensitive and tough. Here are five tips on what not to ask and what you should do instead.

Validate their feelings

Study[1] found that most women experiencing infertility do not confide in their family or friends about their struggles. Partly, this is due to a sense of hopefulness or increased optimism before initiating infertility treatment. Additionally, the accuracy of self-reporting can be affected, as women may "fake good" to appear mentally healthier than they are to avoid burdening their partners. This secrecy can exacerbate feelings of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Asking open-ended questions such as, "How can I best support you?" or "What can I do for you during this time?" demonstrates a desire to understand their situation and can facilitate a supportive and helpful dialogue.

Be sensitive when talking about your own pregnancy or children

Sharing pregnancy announcements or talking extensively about your own children in front of someone dealing with infertility can be painful for them. Be mindful of the topics you bring up, and try to create a supportive and inclusive environment.

Understandably, they might decline invitations to children's birthday parties, soccer games, and other kid-centred events because they feel uncomfortable. However, extending the invitation regardless shows that you still care about them. They want to remain socially active and connected with friends.

Don’t ask if they’re pregnant yet

Questions like "When are you going to have kids?" or "Why don't you have children yet?" can be hurtful for someone dealing with infertility. It is important to remember that family planning is a private matter, and fertility struggles are often complex and emotional.

Avoid dismissing infertility as a myth or asking invasive questions like if they are on contraceptives or prying into their medical history.

If someone you know has been with their partner for some time and remains without children, respect their boundaries and do not probe. If you must, have a private conversation with them over coffee. You never know what they are experiencing.

Stop telling them that they can adopt

People want biological kids for various reasons. Some people may have been preparing for it for a long time, so when an infertility diagnosis surfaces, they may find it difficult to come to terms with it.

Even though there are IVF treatments available to help them become parents, the journey is not easy and might take a longer time. Give them all the time and space they need to process and work through their feelings.

Don't offer unsolicited advice

While it may come from a well-intentioned place, offering advice or suggesting IVF treatments and fertility checks can be overwhelming for someone going through infertility. Most insurance plans do not cover IVF; hence, though fertility journeys are deeply personal, there are also financial considerations.

Stay away from phrases like "Just relax, and it will happen" or "Enjoy your extended honeymoon while you can," as they may appear dismissive of the challenges faced by people with infertility experience. When supporting someone on their infertility journey, it is essential to show empathy and avoid making insensitive remarks that downplay their challenges.

[1] Rooney KL, Domar AD. The relationship between stress and infertility. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2018 Mar;20(1):41-47. doi: 10.31887/DCNS.2018.20.1/klrooney. PMID: 29946210; PMCID: PMC6016043.

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