What Not to Say Someone Struggling with Infertility

With infertility affecting around 1 in 6 women, chances are you know someone who is struggling, or struggling, with infertility. The pain and distress of this experience is excruciating, often exacerbated by well-intentioned friends and family members who want to help but struggle to find words that feel kind and supportive.

If you know someone struggling with infertility, it can be difficult to know how to offer support. And that makes sense. These kinds of historical skills are not taught in school. So, unless you learn them from the role models in your life, you may not have the tools to know how to help.

At the same time, you want to do something. You don’t want to avoid talking to your friend or family member who is struggling because you know it can add to their feelings of loneliness and isolation. So, you might be thinking, what should I say, and not say, if I want to be a supportive friend?

Here are 6 things not to say to someone struggling with infertility (and what to say instead).

1. At least…/Could be worse…

When someone is struggling, it’s tempting to want to point out why they should “look on the bright side” because “things could always be worse.” And there is truth in that. In life, for all of us, things could always be worse.

But, think about it, when someone tells you, does it make your struggle feel unreal? Or more painful? I do not think so.

Sure, it can provide some perspective and remind you that there are things to be thankful for, even in the midst of a difficult time, but it can also feel like what you’re going through is not valid. Additionally, it can lead you to think that you “should” push down, ignore, or invalidate your true feelings because “someone else feels worse.”

Chances are, your friend already knows that life could be worse, but her current struggle is real and painful. He wants to feel seen in his feelings and for you to recognize that what he is going through is difficult and that he has the right to be disappointed, sad, frustrated, angry, or whatever emotion comes up.

What to say instead: I know how hard it is for you. So much to handle. You are doing great. Is there anything specific I can do to support you?

2. Have you tried x?

It’s tempting to want to do something proactive to help your friend. And that doesn’t mean you can’t. However, when someone is struggling with infertility, it is best not to assume that they haven’t tried everything.

Most women struggling with infertility feel overwhelmed by all the things they’ve done to try to get pregnant, and it can be overwhelming to think about trying one more thing. The process is tiring and discouraging, and your friend may feel like he’s maxed out his bandwidth on the subject.

What to say instead: Do you have all the resources you want? Want any help with additional resources?

3. My friend had sex and got pregnant!

Holding out hope can be a good thing, and, for someone struggling with infertility, it can also be very difficult to hear a success story. While not impossible, connecting with someone else’s joy in the midst of your own pain can be really difficult.

In addition, hearing about the “thing” a friend did to “magically” get pregnant can also feel like you’ve inadvertently simplified what has been a very complicated journey for your friend.

What to say instead: Watch for clues that your friend will be open to success stories, or, depending on the relationship, gently ask if success stories would help him. If they do, you can say, “Would it be helpful for me to connect you with a friend of mine who is on a similar journey to get pregnant?”

4. You’re going to our mutual friend’s upcoming baby shower, right?

Being close to a pregnant friend can be a big trigger for those dealing with infertility. Although the joy is still there for the pregnant friend, it also comes with the reminder of what your struggling friend is missing and it really hurts.

This can help those dealing with infertility to reduce triggering situations and lean into empowering situations. There is so much feeling out of control when a woman is struggling with infertility that being able to control the environments in which a woman puts herself can be key to helping maintain her sanity.

What to say instead: If you have to skip our mutual friend’s baby shower, it’s totally understandable. I understand, and he will understand. Do what’s best for you.

5. You definitely feel x.

Assumptions are the worst. It never feels good when someone assumes how you should be feeling especially when they are completely wrong.

People are not mind readers, and your individual experiences shape the way you see and perceive the world which means that what you may feel or cope with in a given situation may be very different from what your friend might feel or handle.

Curiosity is your best friend when it comes to chatting with your friend about her infertility. When you use gentle curiosity instead of assumptions, you open the door for your friend to share her experience through her own lens without fear of being judged or misunderstood.

What to say instead: how are you feeling What’s been going through your mind lately?

6. Just be patient; it will happen eventually.

Hope is wonderful, but this statement may not sit well with someone struggling with infertility. Everyone’s journey is different, and it’s impossible to tell what the future holds for anyone.

Being patient is one of the hardest parts of infertility, and it can be really hard to maintain hope for months and years. Telling your friend to “just be patient” will reduce the challenges of waiting and hoping for something she really wants right now. And it can leave your friend out of sight of his lived experience.

What to say instead: Waiting and wondering is very difficult! I know how much you want it. I’m here for you.

As you navigate this important support role, periodically check in with your friend to see how you can be there for her in the ways she needs. Do your best to provide the support she needs and acknowledge and validate her feelings even though they may change from day to day. The best kind of friend is the one who is there, with curiosity and an open heart, to listen and support without judgment.


What Not to Say to Someone Struggling With Loss

By Darcie Brown, LMFT

Author bio: Darcie Brown, LMFT, is a psychotherapist specializing in perinatal women’s health. Darcie owns him own private practice and sees clients virtually throughout the states of California and South Carolina. She also has certification in Integrative Mental Health and works with her clients to approach their mental health from a self perspective. She is an avid writer who shares wellness content on her blog as well as in various publications, including Bustle, Women’s Health, Thrive Global, and Better by Today. Darcie is also a wife and young mother. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, pilates, reading, and traveling with her family.

Keywords: fertility, infertility, postpartum, mental health, grief, trauma, hormonal changes, support, trying to conceive, TTC, IVF, pregnancy, loss

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