Being a family member or friend of a couple facing infertility can feel like navigating a minefield. What’s the best way to support and comfort them?
Of course, you want to be a helpful source of comfort as they navigate any stress they are feeling, but the words being said can actually be fraught with unintended results. More often than you’d expect, infertile couples find that questions and comments from well-meaning individuals can be hurtful and upsetting.
One way to avoid unintentionally striking a nerve is to be aware of the more common mistakes friends and family members make after learning about a loved one’s infertility diagnosis or treatment. Fertility Solutions has outlined the top five conversation topics infertile couples find insensitive.
- Suggestions about possible treatments or second opinions – Questioning someone’s approach to their infertility treatment or diagnosis undermines their decisions and the trust they have placed in their fertility specialist. Unless you are already familiar with the world of infertility and the medical aspect of testing and treatment, your observations could be unfounded. Needless speculation can put infertile couples on the defense when they were hoping to just share information with you.
- Off-handed comments about being childless – Trying to input some optimism into a serious conversation is an understandable reaction, but saying that someone is lucky or fortunate because they cannot conceive is hurtful. Telling someone they are so lucky they can sleep in, save money or go on vacation because they don’t have a baby is not going to bring relief to someone who is actively trying to become a parent.
- Suggestions about adoption – If your family member or friend wants to adopt instead of undergoing fertility treatment or third-party reproduction, then they likely would have done so. Reasons for choosing fertility treatment, an egg donor, sperm donor or using a surrogate are very personal, so to suggest that adoption is easier or better can be hurtful, especially after they already made the best choice for them or they may not be able to adopt.
- Suggestions that stress alone is to blame – Infertility is a medical condition, and yes, stress can affect a person’s health, but stress alone is not an infertility diagnosis. Telling someone to relax, take a vacation or take some time off work is not a fertility treatment plan and shouldn’t be advised on its own, especially when that advice is from someone who isn’t a fertility specialist. Additionally, blaming fertility issues on stress minimizes your loved one’s medical diagnosis that assumes infertility is a simple choice they can change with attitude, when that is not accurate at all.
- Off-handed comments about already having one child – Secondary infertility affects more than one million couples in the United States alone, but having one child does not mean that every parent will feel his or her family is complete. The desire to continue to grow a family is legitimate and parents should not feel they don’t deserve to want a second, third or more children because they already have one.