Struggling with infertility is a lonely, grief-riddled, and draining journey – physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. It can take years to see any light at the end of the tunnel, and for people facing this fertility battle, IVF can oftentimes be the miracle answer that they have been praying for.
But just because your friend has made the decision to move forward with IVF, it does not mean that their painful journey in the realm of fertility is finally over. With increased hormones, and a renewed sense of trepidatious hope (not to mention a financial investment) riding on the outcome, they may need you more now than ever before.
When you see a friend or a loved one struggling to get pregnant, it’s only natural to want to lend your support and let them know that you are there for them. Taking them out for a spontaneous cup of coffee, being that listening ear over the phone, the shoulder to cry on when it all becomes too much, and a well-timed funny meme can often do wonders to lift the spirit and make the journey that much more bearable.
It’s also tempting to want to offer words of comfort, but there are some well-intentioned phrases that can often miss the mark and cause more pain than was meant. Here are eight phrases we definitely recommend avoiding.
"Just Relax And Stop Stressing About It"
IVF and the feelings around fertility issues can cause an incredible amount of stress for a couple. What’s likely to make it worse? The amount of times they’re told to ‘just relax’ by friends and family.
The last thing someone wants to hear is that their justified worries about conceiving are ruining their chances of getting pregnant. Instead, validate your loved ones’ feelings by listening to their worries and letting them know you’re there for them.
"Have You Tried..."
Yes. They have. If your friends are having trouble conceiving and they’ve made the enormous decision to try IVF, it’s safe to assume they’ve probably done an exhaustive amount of research on anything and everything that may help them fall pregnant.
It really isn’t helpful to suggest a list of alternative therapies or Goop-approved practices you’ve heard can result in pregnancy miracles. Most of these are old wives’ tales that have no research backing them up whatsoever.
Unless you’re a fertility doctor yourself, keep the medical advice to a minimum.
"Have You Considered Adoption?"
“No. Never. What a novel idea. Thank you for the suggestion,” said no one going through IVF ever.
How a couple decides to create a family or extend their family is their decision. Period. If they’re undergoing IVF, you can 1000% guarantee that they have considered any and all options that are available to them, and they’ve made the choice to pursue IVF. They may share their reasons for that decision with you or they may not. That’s also their choice.
But comments like this are insensitive and can cause them to feel judged, inadequate, and yes, guilty. Stay away from this one. Please.
"My Friend's Sister Just Stopped Trying and She Got Pregnant the Next Month"
That’s very nice for your friend’s sister, however, if your friend is currently struggling with fertility, hearing about a friend or a sister or a friend’s sister who magically got pregnant after she just “stopped trying” has the opposite effect than you probably intended.
Rather than bring hope, it can actually cause them to despair even more. They are already surrounded by friends and family with their broods of beautiful children, and hearing yet another story of someone else who is able to conceive while they still cannot can cause them to feel even more isolated and disheartened.
Best just to leave your friend’s sister out of it.
"Trust Me, You're Lucky You Don't Have Kids"
We understand how desperately you want to make them smile, laugh, or try to find a positive in their current situation, and that is admirable and kind. But consoling your loved one with horror stories about your own children could easily make them feel even more isolated and perhaps even resentful.
It can be insulting and frustrating to hear casual phrases like this, as there’s nothing lucky about having to go through a hugely stressful event like IVF, while desperately wanting a child. And as crazy and chaotic as your little ones may be, your friend probably sees the chaos and yearns for the days when she will have her own chaos.
"At Least You Have One Kid Already"
Just because a friend already has children, doesn’t make the heartbreak of secondary infertility any easier. Saying things like this could make them feel alone and guilty, as though their hurt is somehow unjustified.
Be sensitive to the fact they would probably give anything to extend their family. Although it may be well-meaning, it can often make a person feel even worse.
“Whose Fault Is It?”
The causes of a couple’s infertility are deeply personal and might be something they don’t feel comfortable sharing – even with close friends. Plus, phrasing it as though it’s someone’s ‘fault’ is poorly-worded. When it comes to infertility, please don’t try to place blame.
Think of it this way: it’s no one’s fault when someone falls ill with a medical issue or a mental issue. It is the same with infertility, and assigning “fault” or “responsibility” can add layers of guilt to an already hurting person.
“How Much Did It Cost?”
Money is a sensitive subject at the best of times, let alone when you throw health issues into the mix. Unless your friend wants to speak to you about the financial implications of IVF, it’s best to avoid this subject entirely.
If in doubt, ask your loved one how you can best support them. Often, when it comes to IVF, they’ll just want you to listen and show empathy, rather than offer advice or solutions.