Infertility Etiquette -- Tips for Talking to Those Going Through Infertility

What Not to Say

If someone you love is going through infertility, you may wonder how to best support them. This includes understanding what not to say. Although you may have very good intentions of being supportive, sometimes you may be saying something that comes across as quite insensitive to someone going through infertility. But try not to get too hung up on it. You don't quite understand --- and that's okay. If you truly do want to support your loved one during this time, try to research in advance some of the things that may not be quite appropriate.
Some of the things that you may want to avoid saying include:
  • "Just relax and it will happen." Although many women become pregnant when they just stop thinking about it, those who are diagnosed with infertility usually have an actual medical issue that is preventing them from becoming pregnant -- relaxing is not going to fix that physical, medical problem. Telling them to relax will make them feel like they are doing something wrong, when in fact it is something that is completely out of their control. This comment will only add more stress to an already stressed-to-the-max couple.
  • "Maybe it's just not meant to be." While your intentions with this one may be to bring comfort, it is probably one of the most painful things for a couple going through infertility to hear. This will stoke feelings of punishment, as if they have done something that makes them not suited to be parents.
  • "Your day will come." Don't give them false hope. The reality is that it very well may not happen for the couple. Although there are some great and effective methods to help couples going through infertility become pregnant, they are not foolproof. And when all the medical options fail, adoption may be too expensive or something that a couple does not want to pursue.
  • "You can have my kids." While you may be trying to make light of the situation, this is not funny to couples trying to become pregnant. It sounds like you are ungrateful for the children you have. Couples going through infertility would gladly welcome the chaos and problems you make fun of rather than being childless.
  • "Enjoy being able to sleep late and travel whenever you want to." Don't minimize the problem -- it does not bring comfort. A similar comparison would be telling someone who just lost their mother that at least they don't have to buy a Mother's Day card anymore. You would never say this to someone, so don't minimize the pain of couples going through infertility with comments such as these.
  • "There are worse things that can happen." You might think there are worse things that could happen. However, to a woman who has dreamed her whole life of being pregnant and having a baby with Mommy's eyes and Daddy's smile, not being able to have a child very well could be the worst thing that could happen.
  • "This morning sickness is brutal and I am so uncomfortable I can't sleep." If you are pregnant, don't complain about your pregnancy in front of your loved one who is going through infertility. While you may think you are telling them they are lucky to not have the pains of pregnancy, they would love to trade the horrors of infertility for your worst day of pregnancy pains. A woman going through infertility would gladly throw up every day for nine months straight rather than not have a child.

If you are pregnant, understand that it may be incredibly difficult for your loved one to be around you during this time. Seeing your belly grow is a constant reminder of what your loved one cannot have.
  • "You need to file for adoption and then you'll get pregnant." First off, don't push adoption yet. Although there are many cases of this type of thing happening, it can be a false hope for those going through infertility. Also, don't minimize the value of adoption.

    Adoption is a wonderful way for couples who are going through infertility to become parents, when and if they reach that decision. However, they may still have a long road to walk to get to this point. That road will consist of a tremendous grieving process for the loss of the baby that won't have their features. Be considerate about this process and try not to push it on them.
  • "You should just do in vitro fertilization." Try to avoid offering advice. Even if you are experienced in the infertility process, couples who are going through infertility are usually experts themselves in no time. They have painstakingly done the research, covered the available options, and discussed their issues with their healthcare provider. Try to remember that you are not there to "fix" the problem, and any advice (when not asked for) is probably unwanted.

    There is a lot involved with IVF, and it is not right for all couples. It is not a simple or casual process, so try not to throw these types of comments out there as if you have the solution for them.
Keeping some of these "don't say phrases" in the back of your head when you are talking with your loved one can help you to avoid some insensitive remarks. It will also help you to be more understanding and empathetic to the situation.
Also, remember that if your friend or family member does share things with you, it is not something to spread to others or gossip about. Infertility is an incredibly personal issue, and for couples to confide in you with their problems means they trust you. Don't break that trust by sharing their information with someone else.

More Headlines in Infertility Etiquette -- Tips for Talking to Those Going Through Infertility

↶ How to Talk to Someone Having Problems Getting Pregnant
↶ Think Before You Speak
‣ What You Can Say
‣ Simply Be There
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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