As a part of our efforts this month to bring you information related to infertility, we reached out to RESOLVE and asked them a few of our biggest questions. One in eight U.S. couples of childbearing age has trouble conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy, so chances are that you know someone who is having this experience right now. Maybe you’ve sat with a friend in this situation and felt at a loss for words.
Barbara Collura, the President/CEO of RESOLVE the National Infertility Association put together a list of 25 things to say and not to say to someone living with infertility. You can read the full list here, but we chose our top 5 suggestions in each category.
Supportive Actions to Take
Let them know that you care. It can be tough to start a conversation, but a good place to start is by asking them how you can support them in this time. You could send them little gifts or notes to let them know that you’re thinking of them.
Do your research. Inform yourself about infertility and possible treatments/options your friend might be looking into, so that you can follow along in the conversation when your friend discusses options.
Provide extra outreach to your male friends. Did you know that 1/3 of infertility cases are attributed to male factors? Your male friends may be in pain as well. Let them know that you support them, too.
Remember them on Mother’s and Father’s Day. Although awareness around infertility and couples who choose not to become parents is higher than ever, there are still many men and women who are mourning on these special days because they haven’t been able to build their family in the way they hoped. Reach out to them with extra love and support on these days.
Attend difficult appointments with them. If it feels appropriate, offer your commitment and support in this tangible way, even if you simply drive them to an appointment or sit in the waiting room during the appointment.
Actions and Phrases to Avoid
Don’t tell them to relax. Many couples already feel that they are doing something wrong that’s causing the infertility, so these kinds of comments can add to that guilt and stress. More often than not, there is a physical issue preventing the pregnancy, and “just be patient” is not going to be the answer.
Don’t minimize the problem. A couple living with infertility is constantly managing conflicting emotions. When you say things like, “At least you still get to sleep through the night,” you may be adding to their guilt over the sadness of not being able to conceive.
Don’t push adoption or another solution. The couple is well aware of options and is capable of deciding what options they would like to pursue. Your suggestion might be coming from a good place, but this deeply personal issue is better left up to them to work out.
Don’t say, “You’re young, you have plenty of time to get pregnant.” Again, do your research before speaking. Younger age can correlate with fertility, but even healthy, young couples (29-33) have only a 20-25% chance of conceiving in any given month.
Don’t question their sadness about being unable to conceive a second child. The number of children that a couple desires to have is a deeply personal decision. It can often increase the confusion if a couple conceived naturally with their first child and is now experiencing secondary infertility.
Finding Support from Resolve.org
According to RESOLVE.org and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, you should seek the care of a specialist if you are unable to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected intercourse (if the women is under the age of 35), or six months if the women is more than 35 years of age. You should also seek the care of a specialist if you have had more than one miscarriage. For more information, support, and resources, visit RESOLVE.org.
What do you think of these suggestions? Whether you’re living with infertility or have a friend who is, you can let us know your thoughts by joining the conversation over on Instagram.
Our Healthy Mama, Happy Baby program is for women in all stages, including preconception. We have many women in the group who are trying to conceive or undergoing fertility treatments. No matter where you are on the journey to motherhood, we exist to bring you information and support you along the way.