10 Things Never to Say to a Woman Struggling with Infertility
Infertility struggles are one of the most challenging issues anyone can go through. One in eight couples struggles with fertility and only someone who has gone through a similar issue will understand perfectly the emotional and psychological downtime it can bring.
I struggled with infertility for a few years and that period was one of the lowest in my life. Even though I already had a kid, infertility issues, whether primary (where you are yet to have a child) or secondary (when you already have one or more kids) brings on the same level of pain.
Friends and family around, although with good intentions, might also make comments or suggestions that will worsen an already sensitive situation.
Women struggling with infertility already know just about everything there is on the subject; from the best foods to eat, to what to avoid, and also the sex position likely to boost their chances when trying to get pregnant.
Consequently, most statements made won’t do much in the way of offering help. If anything, some of these actually do more harm than good and you want to avoid them at all costs.
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Here are ten such statements to avoid:
1) Don’t Minimize the Issue
This is probably the most innocent mistake well-meaning friends make. Infertility is always a major issue and treating it otherwise just conveys the fact you don’t understand her pain.
Saying things like: “just relax, it will happen at the right time”, or ” you are lucky you don’t have kids so your home is always neat” doesn’t help at all.
At the height of her pain (and these come often) these statements might even irritate her, so you want to avoid them as best you can.
2) Don’t Ask Them When They are Having Their Next Baby
Women with secondary infertility face this more.
I got asked questions like:
“When are you having your next kid?”
“Why don’t you want other kids?” Do you think having just one is fine?”
“You probably aren’t trying hard enough to conceive.”
These questions and statements might have been asked with good intentions, but seeing as I was already battling secondary infertility, especially hormonal imbalance, and miscarriage, they hit hard and would make me depressed for a while.
3) Don’t Go on About Your Own Kids
If a woman is yet to have kids and you know she’s actively trying to get pregnant, then it would appear somewhat insensitive to keep going on about yours.
Chances are she has very little knowledge or expertise on the subject anyway and the conversation would always be one-sided, not to mention uncomfortable.
4) You However Don’t Want to Avoid the Subject of Kids Completely
On the other hand, you don’t want to avoid the issue of pregnancy and kids entirely. It’s always tricky knowing where to draw the line on what to say or how much to say.
There is no scale to determine when you’ve said enough. Paying closer attention to your friend’s disposition and reaction will let you know when to stop or if you can keep going.
One thing you never want to do though is stopping a conversation mid-sentence when your friend enters the room. While you’d only be trying to spare her the discomfort of this conversation, doing so will worsen the situation.
5) You Are Lucky You Already Have One
“You are lucky you already have one and should be grateful. There are couples out there without any!”
A friend said this to me once and it was quite upsetting.
A woman experiencing secondary infertility is already grateful for her lot, however, this doesn’t stop the longing for another, and asking her to be content is not going to quell this desire.
6) You Probably Made a Mistake in the Past
This is just about the most insensitive, not to mention the most painful statement that can be told to a person. Whether it is said to their hearing or words filters back to them, hearing this said about you can hurt to the marrow.
No one judges herself more deeply than a woman struggling with infertility and suggesting she is likely being punished for a past decision is reinforcing a belief that is likely, not true.
Infertility issues could be caused by a variety of reasons outside the woman. Only about 30-40% of all infertility issues stem from the woman, 30% from the man, and 30% as unexplained or combined infertility, and blaming a woman is putting an unwarranted weight on her
7) Don’t Suggest They Aren’t Taking Adequate Care of Themselves
Similar to blaming their current infertility on past decisions is suggesting they aren’t taking adequate care of themselves or making the right fertility decisions to boost their chances.
” You really need to lose some weight to increase your chances.”
“You should eat more of…food. It’s what boosted my chances.”
“You probably aren’t having sex as often as you should.”
Come across as a tad bit insensitive and will only serve to grieve her heart, nothing more.
8) Don’t Suggest Adoption
Adoption is great, but only if this decision comes from the couple themselves. Adoption is a great way to give a home to a child craving one and also put a child in your home for you to love.
However, there’s a kind of finality to this option that a couple craving their biological child might not want. Most women just want to carry their own child and develop that special bond that comes from holding them to you and watching them grow.
Most couples admit they aren’t afraid to own up to the fact they might struggle with attachment disorder and would rather not put a child through that.
There’s also the fact adoption could be pretty expensive, going from as much as $20,000 to $40,000 in some states.
9) Don’t Tell Them You Understand If You’ve Never Been in a Similar Situation
It’s easier to give advice if you currently aren’t in the same or a similar situation and a woman struggling with infertility can see through this.
She’s likely to take your advice with a pinch of salt unless, of course, you are a professional or have the health expertise to give out this advice.
10) Relax It Will Happen at the Right Time
This is actually good advice since worrying and agonizing over this issue does nothing to help. However, for a woman struggling with infertility, this would be nearly impossible to adhere to.
You know how when you want something it becomes all you see and can think about? Well, it’s the same for women with fertility issues.
You see pregnant women or women with kids everywhere you turn and it can be a little hard to push this issue to the back of your mind.
11) Don’t Track It So Much
Similar to not focusing so much on trying to get pregnant, is the advice that you should desist from tracking your ovulation and fertile period so much.
This is counter-productive advice as tracking your ovulation is one of the best ways to boost your chances when trying to get pregnant.
Doing this helps you know which are your bat days to get pregnant and which days will produce no result.
There are a few apps that can help you keep track, one of which is the Flo app, which tracks and analyzes your period, presenting you with your best days for pregnancy to occur.
So far, the Flo app boasts of having helped more than 5 million pregnancies happen.
What Then Can You Say to Her?
What do you say to someone who is struggling with infertility?
1) Don’t Bring Up the Conversation Unless She Does
Sometimes, the pain gets so much that she wants to talk. Sometimes, she wants more of a listening ear than advice, especially if she’s currently getting professional help for the issue.
2) Empathize with Her
A woman who has struggled with infertility herself in the past is usually the best person to talk to at these times. Women with fertility issues gravitate towards these women and your words of comfort, as well as any professional advice you can give on the issue usually goes a long way to help.
3) Ask How You Can be of Help
Also, just coming out to ask how you can be of help goes a long way. Asking:
“I wish I knew what to say to comfort you.” or “Is there something you would like me to do to help?”
Does one or both things:
- It shows you care enough and are sensitive enough about her situation.
- It also creates a field where she can lead the conversation (an instant way to know what to avoid and what to do instead).
Offer to Connect Her with Friends Who Have Gone Through a Similar Experience
If you are at a loss for what to say, you could just offer to connect her with friends who have also experienced infertility issues or suggest local or online groups that will be of help.