15 Things Not to Say to Someone Struggling With Infertility
When someone is going through the difficult process of trying to conceive, as a friend or family member there are lots of things you can do or say.
Here are some of the worst things to say to someone dealing with infertility, plus a couple of things that you should say.
1. I know how you feel
No, you don’t. Even if you have had your own experience trying to conceive, or even if you were never able to have kids.
Especially do not say it if you are currently surrounded by your own happy healthy brood of munchkins.
Someone’s exact mental, physical and emotional journey through this process is not going to be the same as yours.
You don’t know exactly how they feel or what they are going through, and sometimes saying this can belittle their pain.
Sometimes you can make them feel worse for not handling it as well as you did.
It would be better to go with, ‘I went through my own experience of that, I can’t describe how difficult that was for me.’
2. Have you considered other options for parenting?
The answer to this is usually yes, and the question does not really need to be asked.
If someone is early in their journey then they don’t need to consider this yet, and if they are later in their journey, then they have thought about it all too much.
Other methods are time-consuming, expensive, and can be heartbreaking.
Even if any of these options seems mildly possible for your friend, it cannot compare to being able to conceive and carry their own baby.
So don’t ask!
3. Think of all the children in the world who need parents
And while we are talking about other options for parenting, don’t say ‘But there are so many children out there that need adopting,’ because they know this too.
And this might make them feel guilty for not running out there and rescuing a bunch of them like abandoned kittens.
4. Have you thought of not having kids?
When someone is dealing with infertility, there is the chance that they will never be able to conceive their own child.
For most, this is a heartwrenching, life-changing realization that takes some getting used to.
Some people will feel their infertility as a form of grief for the rest of their lives.
They have considered not having kids, and this thought is usually devastating, so unless you are a professional counsellor, don’t go there.
5. But think of all the cool things you can do without kids
This one may be ok if you are a very close friend, and she has a dark sense of humour, but otherwise, don’t say it.
Especially if you are a parent yourself.
Don’t say; ‘you have so much more money,’ ‘your house is so much neater,’ ‘you can sleep all night,’ ‘you can have date night whenever you like,’ or any other version of why you wish you had a break from your kids.
A break from kids when you have them is lovely.
A life without kids when you really want them is quite different, and these minor concessions will not replace what your friend misses out on.
6. Why don’t you just get a pet?
In fact, if you say this to your friend, I don’t even know why they are still friends with you.
7. Oh, my other friend had that
It’s possible that your other friend had difficulty conceiving, but the chances that they had exactly the same experience are slim to none.
There are many reasons for infertility, many of which do not have a specific diagnosis or treatment, so your other friend probably did not have exactly what this person ‘has’.
It’s not the same thing.
8. Have you tried the new miracle cure?
There are a billion old and new cures for infertility and this person has probably already considered them all.
You are very rarely being helpful when you chime in with this one.
Things not to say include ‘Have you tried acupuncture?’ ‘Have you tried hypnotherapy?’, or ‘Have you tried only eating cabbage and bananas?’.
Even worse than this is if you start discussing specific sexual positions that you think may help (especially if you are the mother-in-law).
If the miracle cure had any science behind it, this person has already considered it or tried it.
Along with trying a lot of things that have no science behind them.
You may think you are helping with this advice, but most of the time, you are not.
9. It’s because of your past lifestyle
You are not helping!! Do not ever say to someone trying to conceive; ‘It’s because of your past drinking/smoking/drug-taking/diet,’ or any other variation of this.
It may be true (it probably isn’t), but how on earth can pointing out someone’s past behaviour be helpful at all right now? It will make them feel worse, so don’t say it!
10. You should be grateful for what you do have
Nope, just nope.
Unless your specific purpose is to make someone feel like crap.
And then make them feel like crap for feeling like crap.
11. You need to lose weight
You should never say this to anyone, ever.
This well-meaning but horrible comment usually comes from a mother or someone else from an older generation.
Even if you are talking to your own daughter about her struggles with infertility, do not say this.
She already knows!
12. You’re lucky; my kids drive me crazy
This one fits in with all the comments about how great life is without kids.
People with infertility issues are not lucky.
Again, needing a break from your children can in no way compare to a life without children in it at all.
No matter how hard parenting is, you do not tell someone who can’t have kids that you regret having your own.
13. Why aren’t you pregnant yet?
Oh my God, do not ask this.
If they are pregnant, and they are comfortable with doing so, they will announce it when they are ready.
If they are not, or if they are in the early risky stages of their pregnancy, they don’t want to talk about it.
You may not be someone that they want to discuss it with.
Just stay away from this question altogether.
14. It’s all in your mindset
Some (again well-meaning) people have very good advice about how infertility issues have a psychological basis.
The more you try to conceive, the more you may be talking your mind and body out of it, that sort of thing.
You will hear stories about people trying to get pregnant for years only to succeed when they finally stop trying.
But telling someone that their physical, and deeply upsetting, challenges are all in their head (and therefore all their fault), is not helpful.
15. Can I do anything to help?
I admit saying that you shouldn’t offer to help is controversial.
Offering to help is very kind and what most people will want to do, so how could it be wrong?
It’s actually in the phrasing.
Do not ask if you can do anything, or ‘what can I do to help?’ because your friend in all honesty probably doesn’t know.
If they are going through something difficult, you are far more helpful if you use your own initiative and either offer specific suggestions or just go ahead and help anyway.
Things like taking them out for a walk and a coffee, or bringing over comfort food and chick flicks, or dragging them out dancing, or just sitting with them in the dark are all excellent things you can do to help.
So, what is helpful?
Being helpful means being there for your friend, without putting your own judgment on their experience or assuming you know how they feel.
Some things you can say include, ‘I am here, and even if you don’t want to talk right now, I’m going to keep checking in with you,’ or ‘I cannot imagine how you feel.’ Maybe take a leaf from Good Will Hunting, and just go in for a big hug and say ‘It’s not your fault.’
Just being there and listening are the best responses really, and will work for everybody.
You won’t even find this that hard!