Very often, we see patients who struggle with infertility but don’t necessarily know where to turn (beyond our office) for help and support. Sometimes, turning to friends and/or family isn’t always the simplest solution, especially when those loved ones aren’t sure exactly how to be supportive.
Infertility is difficult in so many different ways—physically, emotionally, relationally…the list goes on and on. And people all cope with infertility differently, which means figuring out what a friend needs and how to really help them through this challenging time can be complicated; you want to help, but you don’t want to undermine the process, accidentally say something insensitive, or minimize their struggle.
At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we want our patients to feel fully supported in every way. Knowing how to actually give that support can be tricky—especially if you’ve never experienced infertility yourself — so we put together a guide on how to offer support to a loved one struggling with infertility.
Here are three major things you can do to help.
Learn More About Infertility
The first thing you can do to be supportive is to read up on the basics of infertility. This helps in two ways: 1) It will make it easier for your friend to talk to you about what they are going through (instead of having to explain the process or waiting for you to react to new information). And, 2) Knowing more about infertility will spare you the misstep of repeating misconceptions or offering inappropriate advice.
Basically, having a foundational knowledge of infertility—some of its potential causes and the most common treatments—will make conversations easier and give your loved one a better opportunity to open up about what they’re going through and how they’re really feeling.
Know What to Say
Even now, armed with some foundational information about infertility, you still might not have all the answers on what’s most helpful and supportive to say to someone dealing with infertility. Just acknowledging that the process is difficult and validating their feelings can be really valuable when navigating the conversations with your loved one. Simple statements like “I’m here for you” and “I can see how hard this is for you” can let a person know that you are listening and that you really do care.
You can also ask them what you can do to be most helpful. Offer to attend difficult appointments with them, to watch their older kids, or even to be their workout buddy (since regular exercise can alleviate stress and may also help increase fertility in some cases).
Know What Not to Say
On the other end of the spectrum, knowing what not to say can be just as important as knowing what to say to a loved one struggling with infertility. Ultimately, you don’t want to say anything that will invalidate their struggle or experience. You should avoid saying things like:
- “Just relax,”
- “Stop stressing about it so much,”
- “At least you can still sleep in (or travel, go out whenever you want, etc.),”
- “Just be grateful you already have a child,”
- “There are worse things that could happen,” or
- “What’s meant to be will be.”
These types of comments—even when said in jest—can create even more stress for someone dealing with infertility and minimize the pain they are feeling. You should also avoid questioning their decisions and/or pushing other solutions (like adoption or giving up altogether).
If you’re really worried about saying the wrong thing, you can be honest about it. You can say something like, “I’m worried about saying the wrong thing, but I do want you to know that I care about you and want to support you in any way I can.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with infertility and you have questions or would like more information, you can contact AZCREI by visiting us online or calling (520) 326-0001.