If you know that a friend, co-worker or family member is struggling with infertility, there are some things you just shouldn’t say.
Infertility is a difficult thing to experience. Months go by with raised hopes that are dashed over and over, and for some couples, there are no answers or solutions, or they can’t afford to seek help. If you know that someone in your life is suffering from infertility, here are a few handy phrases you should keep out of your conversations.
1. Just relax!
This is a super-popular thing for people to tell someone fighting infertility, but telling someone to relax can actually stress them out. Don’t do it. It shows you don’t understand their struggles and that you really don’t know how it all works.
2. Whose fault is it?
This puts the blame on one partner or the other when that person may already be feeling guilt for having a medical issue that is contributing to an infertility problem. It’s hurtful and rude. Also, often there is no medical reason conception isn’t happening.
3. Be grateful for the child(ren) you have.
If someone is experiencing secondary infertility (meaning they are unable to get pregnant a second-plus time), the hurt is still there. If you minimize your friend’s or family member’s feelings by telling them to appreciate what they have, it shows that you think their feelings are not valid.
4. Why don’t you just adopt?
This is another way to show someone that you don’t consider their feelings to be worthwhile. While adoption (or other paths to parenthood) is an option for some families, each person or couple has their own reasons for pursuing pregnancy that are likely not up for argument or discussion.
5. There are worse things that could happen.
This is a pro-level attempt at minimizing another person’s experience. While there are things that are worse, this doesn’t mean your friend shouldn’t be completely bummed about her circumstances.
6. It must not be [insert deity here]’s plan.
Infertility is a medical issue, not part of a package of punishment meant to be doled out by a higher power.
7. At least you can still travel, sleep in, go out on dates.
For many people with infertility, they would trade any of these in a heartbeat.
8. My partner gets me pregnant just by looking at me.
This is wonderful, of course, but for someone dealing with month after month of heartbreak, it’s like rubbing salt in a wound.
What to do instead
Instead of doling out these unhelpful, hurtful phrases (even if you mean well, which you likely do), take time to listen if your friend wants to share, and if she doesn’t, accept that by not prying into what can be a deeply personal issue. A shoulder to lean on will mean so much for your friend, and don’t feel that if you’re not offering advice or solutions that your presence isn’t valuable. If you keep these few tidbits out of your convos, it can help your friend not feel so alone.