Helping a Friend through Infertility

There are around 7 million women each year in the United States alone that struggle with trying to get pregnant. Chances are pretty good you know someone that’s struggling with infertility right now, even if they haven’t shared their struggle with you.

It’s hard, sometimes, to know what to say. The pain and frustration that go along with infertility can be depressing and even debilitating. It’s a unique kind of pain, too, because it’s one that can come back again month after month after month.

If someone you know and love is struggling with infertility, here are some thoughts on how to offer your support:

  • Don’t tell her to “just relax.” Relaxing isn’t going to help her get pregnant. Most of the time people struggling with infertility have been at it for several months, and relaxing isn’t an option anymore. Relaxation doesn’t cure infertility.
  • Acknowledge the reality of the problem. For some folks, it can be a bit hard to understand why it’s such a big deal. After all, not everyone has kids, and not having kids means they can travel or sleep late on the weekends, right? This is like telling someone who’s lost a parent to be happy because they don’t have to buy another Father’s Day card.
  • Don’t minimize the impact it’s having on her life. Sure, there are worse things than infertility like losing a spouse, getting raped or having your house burn down. But the relative impact on her life may seem as significant to her. Who are you to question that? Instead, acknowledge it.
  • Be careful with saying “if it’s meant to be, it will be.” Some folks think they’re doing the person struggling with infertility a favor by encouraging them to just accept that it’s out of their control. The fact is, it might not be out of their control; it just might be out of their reach at the moment. It’s not up to you to define providence or the will of the universe for your friend; it’s up to you to hope with your friend that she’ll get what she’s longing for.
  • Be sensitive about your own pregnancy or children. Your kids might be rotten brats, but complaining about them to your friend who’s trying to conceive will only add insult to injury. Right now she’d give anything to have rotten kids of her own. The same goes for morning sickness or having to pee all the time if you’re pregnant.
  • Don’t jump right to adoption. There may be medical treatment options for your friend’s fertility before she needs to give up and consider adoption. And, while adoption is a viable alternative, it’s not yet time to talk about that. Let her exhaust her own fertility options first.

It all comes down to this: your friend is hurting, and it’s not your job to judge or to try to fix the problem. Your job is to offer her support, encouragement, and, when appropriate, to grieve with her.