Infertility can devastate couples, and unknowingly, well-meaning friends can add to that hurt. While you want to help offer kind words to those having trouble conceiving, there are some things that can be more harmful than helpful. That in mind, here are some of the top comments best left unsaid.
“It’s just a mindset.”
Yes, a positive mindset can work wonders in some scenarios, but when it comes to physical conditions of infertility, it’s best to never tell someone if they wanted it bad enough they’d be able to overcome their struggle and have a baby. Suggesting that someone has a mental barrier to pregnancy makes no sense when applied to medical conditions. Imagine telling someone with cancer that he or she must have had a secret desire to be sick. When you think about it in that light, it sounds terrible because it is. Infertility, like other medical diagnosis’, has physical roots and underlying conditions. Do not discount this by claiming that a woman will get pregnant only when she really wants it.
“You’re just not ready for it.”
Telling a couple who struggles with infertility that they are not ready to raise a child is just cruel. The fact is, regardless of the amount of preparation, no one is ever completely ready for a child because each baby brings unique challenges, just as no two people are fully prepared for the unexpected events that may arise during a marriage. Preparation to become a parent, however much or little, does not impact physical medical conditions leading to infertility.
“Why don’t you try…?” or “Just do IVF”
If you are not the personal doctor for the couple, it’s best to not suggest medical procedures that can be both pricy and painful. In vitro fertilization is not a panacea. Not only is it only effective up to 40 percent of the time in even the healthiest, youngest women, it is also exorbitantly expensive, costing approximately $10,000 to $15,000 per attempt. Typically, multiple attempts are needed for success, and many health insurance plans do not cover the cost.
“You can always adopt”
While this may be coming from a place of providing a glass half full mindset, for many couples, adoption may not be an option they want to explore. The emotional journey of conceiving a biological child holds a lot of weight when the topic of adoption arises. Couples who choose to adopt have to come to terms with the fact that they will not have a biological child of their own. Such a process requires a mourning period that some couples may not be ready for yet. Additionally, the option of adoption is very expensive. Some people also perpetuate the myth that adopting a child will result in a subsequent natural pregnancy, so it’s especially important to not suggest a couple take on responsibility for another life for the goal of conceiving their own child, as there is no medical foundation to this theory. Adoption is a heavy decision to make that will affect the life of the child and parents and is not a matter to be taken lightly as an alternate option if they aren’t ready for it.
“Things could be worse.”
Yes, things could be worse, but for infertile couples, they are in a terrible, daily battle that causes personal heartbreak, and perhaps physical pain as well. Never discount another person’s grief, no matter what the cause is. Doing so will not help matters and only belittle the other person’s pain.
“Things happen for a reason” or “It’s God’s will”
This cruel approach, though said referencing a hypothetical notion of a higher power insinuates that they are not meant to be parents and for good reason. Adding insult to injury this not only disregards any underlying health or medical conditions they may be dealing with but also projects the notion that they shouldn’t be parents in the first place.
“Just relax” or “Just have fun with trying”
When it comes to the infertility journey, for many couples the journey is anything but fun. Rigid scheduling, timing, medications, treatments, hormonal fluctuations, side effects and a sense of no control can be painful and frustrating. Telling someone to have fun or just relax, can come across as ignorant and uninformed of the struggle they are dealing with.
“Have you tried losing weight/eating healthier/exercising more?”
Chances are, depending on the underlying conditions at play, couples struggling with infertility have been told this time and time again by doctors who are unable to find a solution or who are starting them on the road to fertility treatment. The most basic factors couples have control of when it comes to fertility health is their diet and exercise habits and for many trying to conceive, these are the first things addressed when fertility becomes a concern. In regards to weight, for women dealing with fertility factors such as hormonal imbalances or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) weight loss may be an ongoing struggle that is not simply achieved.
“Don’t worry, you’re still young”
Regardless of what you consider to be young, it’s recommended that women under 35 see a fertility specialist after being unable to conceive for one year as being younger than this can increase the chance of fertility treatments working, but youth does not guarantee success. For women dealing with fertility struggles, chances are their age is constantly something they have playing in the back of their mind when planning treatments and timing.
“I personally wouldn’t do treatments”
Oh, no? Then if you ever are diagnosed with infertility, you can make that choice for yourself. Don’t project your opinion on someone’s options. Chances are, they didn’t want to go down the road of treatments either, but they have been pushed to the point where those are the options they are willing to take.
“Just be happy/grateful you already have a child”
Secondary infertility is a very real struggle and a pain that is just as upsetting as first-time infertility. Even if a couple already has a child, being diagnosed with secondary infertility is a big deal to those who face it. Before telling someone to “be grateful” for what they have, don’t assume they’re not. It is possible to be grateful and hurt simultaneously.
Discuss your children or pregnancy endlessly
It can be extremely painful for many infertile women to hear complaints or bragging from another woman about their children or pregnancy. For some women dealing with infertility, they would do almost anything to have children of their own, and if you are complaining or bragging about your own pregnancy or children endlessly, you are simply enhancing the pain.
Minimize the problem by highlights the benefits of being childless
We can’t say this enough; being unable to conceive a baby is a very painful journey. Comments like, “Just enjoy being able to sleep late…travel…etc.,” or “you’re so lucky you don’t have kids” do not offer comfort. Instead, these comments can make those dealing with infertility feel like you are minimizing their pain.
Words to Offer Helpful Support
Infertility affects the body, mind and emotions. Never use flippant words to try to put a temporary bandage on the pain. Offer to be a friend and listen to their hurts, and you can both benefit. If some topics such as discussing your pregnancy or children are unknown, approach the subject with ease and offer an option to change the subject at any time.
Instead, of adding insult to injury with an offhand comment meant to lighten the situation, simply offer to listen. Additional words of comfort and support can include;
“I support you and am here as your friend no matter your decision”
“Let me know if you need anything or if I can do anything to help you along the way”
“I know this is rough. I know this hurts and I’m with you.”
Do some research. If you truly want to be an outlet of support, read up on infertility and ask them questions about their journey, offering to be an extra ear when they want to talk or vent.
Remember them on Mother’s and Father’s Day – “Hey, I’m thinking about you today.” That’s it. That’s all you have to say to make a difference.