What NOT to Say to a Friend with Infertility

I've wanted to write this post for quite some time, but life got busy and hectic and threw us a curve ball (or five) - so I didn't. It worked out though! This week is National Infertility Awareness Week - so there could not be a more appropriate time to share this.

As many of you know, I dealt with infertility for about two years before becoming pregnant with my twin girls. In those two years, I most definitely encountered one (or more) of the statements below. I think when someone who hasn't dealt with infertility offers advice, it's genuinely coming from a kind-hearted place; however, because of the lack of knowledge surrounding infertility, it usually just plain hurts (and sometimes sounds stupid - because, again, most people just don't understand infertility).

So, whatever you do, don't say any of the following statement.

Just relax and don't think about it - then you'll get pregnant. 
I hate this. What awful advice. The first thing to know about infertility is that it's a medical condition. It's not like there's a timing issue - or that something like stress is hindering conception. No. Something isn't working correctly in the complicated process of conceiving. Telling a woman to relax and don't think about it is like telling a person with cancer or diabetes to relax and not think about it - then the disease will just go away. Not how this works. 

I know someone who tried this supplement and they got pregnant right away.
Great for that person! Sounds like they didn't really have too hard of a time. Unfortunately, a simple supplement isn't necessarily going to help produce quality eggs, make the uterine lining thicker, or make those swimmers swim harder.

Just have sex all the time. 
That's it? Never crossed my mind. I was over here not having sex to try to get pregnant. Stupid me. Seriously though - Some women dealing with infertility could have sex every day of the month and still never fall pregnant. It's not that simple. I'm also willing to bet that couples dealing with infertility are baby-making around the clock! Trust me.

Trying is the fun part. 
Trying is not the fun part. You have obviously never had to try to get pregnant if you think it's fun. I will tell you what trying is... It's stressful. It's frustrating. It's emotionally and physically draining. It's expensive. It's a roller coaster of emotions. It's a lot of blood work, shots, and medication. Does any of that sound fun? The answer is no.

I accidentally got pregnant. 
Probably the worst thing to say. Most dealing with infertility will never (ever!) be able to accidentally get pregnant. What's worse about someone accidentally getting pregnant is someone not excited about accidentally getting pregnant. If you're willingly participate in sexual activity, there's no accident involved. You know what you're doing. You know if you are or aren't preventing pregnancy when you do it. It's not an accident. Stop acting like it's the most disappointing news of the year.

Don't ever have kids.
I'm so sorry you "accidentally" got pregnant six times. I know you must be exhausted and overwhelmed. But women dealing with infertility would give anything to have an ounce of the exhaustion you are going through just to have a baby in their arms. Please don't ever advise a women with infertility to never have children. That's the only thing she wants and you're just rubbing salt in the wound. Just don't.

Pregnancy is the worst! 
Yeah, pregnancy is the worst because at the end of it you get a baby - and that's horrible! Please don't ever complain about pregnancy symptoms to a woman dealing with infertility. Please consider the fact that some of these women will never know what it's like to see a positive pregnancy test, feel a baby kick, or to give birth to their own child. Something many women are desperate to see and feel. Gaining weight or having swollen feet is something that would be joyous rather than bothersome. Please don't take your symptoms for granted and do not complain.

Have you tried this, that, and the other?
Probably so. Most of us have probably given it a try. Old wives' tales. Herbs. Vitamins. OPKs. Temperature monitoring. Positioning. Timing. Stopping caffeine cold-turkey. Massages. Acupuncture. Eating this or avoiding that. Yes, we've tried this, that, and the other. No it doesn't work.

Adopt, then you'll get pregnant. 
Oh, wow. Ok. This isn't some if-then situation or proven theory. You can't say things like that. I'm sure most women with infertility would love to adopt; however, most of us have already exhausted our thousands of dollars on infertility treatment.

Grab a bottle of Jose and put on some Lil Jon. 
Ok, so I'm sure this isn't your typical advice; not many are going to specifically recommend this duo, but they will recommend the idea. Usually saying something like, "I've heard countless stories of a couple deciding to go out one night, go on vacation, or on a cruise - they let loose, have a few drinks, and two weeks later they are pregnant."  That's great, but been there, done that, didn't happen.

When are you two ever going to have kids?
This usually comes from someone who doesn't know there is a struggle with conceiving. I get that. However, starting a family is such a personal and intimate decision between two people - there's really no good reason to butt-in and be so nosey about such a big decision - especially if a couple hasn't previously been open about discussing it. If you must ask about starting a family, maybe go about it with a more gentle approach. Do you think you two might want to have children one day? Do you want children? Those sound so much better than the former nagging-type question above.

A couple things you CAN do for a friend with infertility. 

Educate yourself. 
To some people, all you have to do to get pregnant is have unprotected sex. Boom. It's actually an incredibly complicated process where a lot of things have to happen together and in a timely manner to achieve pregnancy. If just one of those things is off, it can make conceiving extremely difficult. Men can abnormal or slow sperm for various reasons; women can have issues with eggs, the uterus, fallopian tubes, endometriosis, or hormonal imbalances. Any one or combination of these things can make conception incredibly difficult. Hopefully you can understand how recommending relaxation is dumb.

I know not everyone believes in the power of prayer, but I'm here to tell you I have have seen it work. Pray for God's will. For peace for the couple. Pray that the friend or couple can conceive. Pray for the child. Pray for decision making and guidance. Pray for understanding. Pray for patience.

Acknowledge that you don't understand.
It's ok, we don't expect you to know everything about infertility. We only know everything because we've all graduated, with honors, from Google University. I'm not going to pretend to know everything about a medical condition a friend or family member may have. That's not my role - that's the doctor's role. As a friend or family member, sometimes it's nice just to have someone listen. To sympathize on the hard days.

Hopefully this week of awareness will help those with friends and family members struggling to conceive understand, just slightly, what they are going through. Hope this post was slightly enlightening as well.



Such a great article! You are a strong, smart, and beautiful woman and you have such a fantastic voice as a writer.

Anonymous said...

Congrats! She is beautiful and has the most loving parents.

Unknown said...

Such great advice. I had no idea that my sister and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for over a year, when out of the blue I announced I was pregnant. My sister broke down and sobbed. She told me all the crazy things people would say to her and it broke my heart infertility is a subject that is very dear to my heart. After 2 1/2 years my sister and her husband welcomed twins girls, but it wasn't without lots of prayer, tears, doctors visits, medication, ultrasounds, etc. Education is key!

P.S. Your family is beautiful, and your strength is amazing.