Infertility is a disheartening experience for those who want to build a family. And since infertility is a common health issue affecting all genders, you likely know someone dealing with it. After all, as many as 15% of couples, and about one in five women between ages 15-49, cannot conceive after a year of trying.
A variety of factors can cause infertility. But whatever its cause, infertility is a difficult journey. On top of that, no two fertility stories are alike. If someone you care about struggles with infertility, you may wonder how you can best support them. In this article, we'll look at ways to be there for a friend or family member struggling with infertility.
6 Ways to Support a Loved One Struggling with Infertility
Naturally, you want to be there for the people you love. Yet, infertility can be a sensitive topic, and you may be afraid to do or say the wrong things.
Fortunately, there are some simple ways to be a safe space for your loved one as they cope with infertility.
1. Offer a Listening Ear
One of the best things you can do is just be there for your friend. Everyone needs to feel supported, heard, and validated, especially during a difficult time.
Living with infertility can feel like a lonely path. Your friend may not know who they can talk to, even if they're in a relationship. This is because everyone experiences infertility differently; their partner is likely dealing with their own complex emotions.
It helps to have an outside person to lean on. You can support your loved one just by letting them know you're always available if they need to talk. Some people may not want to discuss their infertility, while others do. Therefore, it's important not to pry or assume anything. Still, just knowing you're there for them can mean a lot to your friend.
2. Don't Give Unsolicited Advice
It may be tempting to offer your own opinions and advice — but it's unhelpful in supporting your loved one.
For example, your gut reaction might be to say things like, "you can try again next month," "maybe you should adopt," or "why don't you try IVF?" However, statements like these can feel like you're minimizing the situation or judging your friend's choices.
Not only that, but not everyone wants to pursue fertility treatments or adoption. So instead of offering up advice, try saying things like, "I'm sorry you're going through this," "how can I help?" or "I wish I could fix it...I'm here if you need to talk."
This way, you can provide a supportive, non-judgmental space for the person you care about.
3. Be Mindful
It's essential to lead with compassion and mindfulness when supporting a friend with infertility. Understand that it may be difficult for them to attend certain events, like baby showers, while they struggle to start a family themselves. Be mindful of this and let your loved one know it's okay if they don't want to attend such events.
On the other hand, don't feel like you can't invite them to your baby shower or kid's birthday party. It may mean a lot just to be invited, even if they don't feel up to attending. Besides, your family is a huge part of your life — it would probably feel more uncomfortable if you refrain from talking about them in front of your friend.
What matters the most is your consideration of your friend's feelings. For instance, if you're about to announce your pregnancy, you might tell your friend in private first. This way, they'll have time to quietly process any emotions.
4. Educate Yourself on Infertility
Infertility looks different for everyone, and well-meaning friends and family often have many questions. It can be exhausting for your friend to answer these similar questions repeatedly when they're struggling with infertility.
Educating yourself about infertility and fertility treatments is a great way to be supportive. Instead of asking for details from your friend, you can find tons of valuable information online.
This way, you're prepared to have a meaningful heart-to-heart about any treatments your friend is undergoing. Then, they can talk freely with you on level ground rather than having to explain their medical choices.
5. Don't Minimize What They're Going Through
Infertility can be profoundly heartbreaking on multiple levels. It's also a significant health issue, even if it's not life-threatening. Avoid comparing infertility to other medical conditions or minimizing your friend's experience.
Statements like "at least you don't have cancer" or "at least you can sleep in" don't help your friend feel supported. Instead, let them know you understand how difficult it is to struggle with infertility.
6. Find Concrete Ways to Help Out
There are many ways to be supportive besides talking it out. For example, you could help your friend with things like watching their other children while they attend fertility appointments. Or help them find a support group in the area.
Going through fertility treatments can be physically and emotionally draining. Offering to clean your friend's house after treatment could mean a lot to them! Sending cards, flowers, or home-cooked meals are all thoughtful ways to show your support.
The bottom line is that there are many simple ways to show heartfelt care to a loved one struggling with infertility. Most importantly, you approach them from a place of love and understanding.
At Advanced Fertility Care, we strive to help couples and individuals achieve their family-building goals through cutting-edge technology and patient-centered care. We're always here to answer any questions about infertility or fertility treatments that you may have. Contact us today to learn more.