Since 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy, the likelihood is high you know someone that is experiencing infertility. The path to parenthood can be a complex journey with many emotions along the way, especially for those who are struggling with infertility. While you can’t fix it, there are things you can say and do that can support your friend and let them know you’re there.
Here are some suggestions on how you can help a friend who’s having difficulty getting pregnant.
Don’t give unsolicited advice
It can be tough not knowing how to help your friend, especially if they experience failed fertility treatments and negative pregnancy tests. It’s natural to offer advice, using the experiences of other people you know who’ve experienced infertility.
Maybe your sister was unable to get pregnant so she adopted, or maybe you have a friend who did acupuncture and she became pregnant. While it seems helpful, giving your friend unsolicited advice on what treatments they should consider or how they should expand their family can make them feel guilty, annoyed, or anxious. And conversations about medical treatments are best left between your friend and their fertility specialist.
Ask how you can support them
Ask your friend what they need from you to avoid making assumptions. Saying, “This must be so hard. How I can best be there for you?” can give your friend an opportunity to let you know what they might need.
For example, you might feel your friend should talk about their feelings after their treatment didn’t work, but actually, your friend really just wants to order pizza and watch a comedy with you. Let them take the lead in deciding how they want to be supported.
Do your own research
We get it. Intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), stimming, frozen embryo transfer (FET)—it can be confusing keeping your friend’s fertility treatments all straight. Unfortunately for your friend, it can also be overwhelming to have to explain their fertility diagnosis or treatments continuously when multiple loved ones are asking.
The mental and physical toll of infertility is difficult enough, and it can be helpful for your friend if you have already familiarized yourself with the lingo. You don’t need to be an expert, but knowing the basics of what your friend is going through can take some of the burden off them and you can focus on being there to help them cope.
Infertility can be lonely, even if your friend is surrounded by a partner and plenty of friends and family. Because people may not know what to say, sometimes they don’t say anything.
Let your friend know you’re there and check-in with them regularly. It can be as simple as a text message asking how they’re doing or how their treatment went. Or the next time you’re out to lunch together alone, ask them how their appointment went.
Let them know you’re there
There may be times when your friend is too overwhelmed with treatments or doctor’s appointments. In these cases, you might get the feeling it’s best to take a step back. Tell your friend you’re there for them and are available if and when they’re ready. They may choose to come to yr when they want to talk, but if they don’t, try not to take it personally. There isn’t a right or wrong way to cope with infertility and just knowing you’re there for them can be helpful to your friend.
You may not always “get it right,” and it can be tough to know what to say or do in every circumstance. But the efforts you make to support your friend will be appreciated.
If you’re experiencing infertility yourself, know you’re not alone. Don’t be afraid to get some extra support if you need it. Visit RESOLVE to find an infertility support group near you.