For couples that have always dreamed of starting a family together, a diagnosis of infertility can be beyond debilitating.
For a woman struggling with fertility issues, the pressure to raise a family can become insurmountable, especially when she looks around and sees all of her friends happily and easily conceiving.
While many stay quiet about this issue, either due to shame, sadness or just feeling like something is wrong with them, fertility problems are a silent crisis among a lot of women.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the US ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant.
And contrary to popular belief, infertility is not just a woman’s issue. One-third of infertility cases are due to women’s problems; another one-third of cases are due to men’s problems; a mixture of both male and female problems causes the other cases.
Unfortunately, the verdict of infertility goes even deeper and reaches farther than just the couple that is affected by the diagnosis—many friends and family around these couples also struggle with how to approach it.
For example, do you ask for continuous updates or progress reports? Or do you not bring it up at all, out of fear of unbearably bad news?
Do you leave out any remarks of your own kids in every conversation? Or do you converse as usual, mentioning your own kids and their daily activities, thus making the situation feel as normal as possible?
Thanks to the founders behind National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) via Resolve.org, you can reference this helpful list of ways to support someone you love that may be struggling with infertility:
- First and foremost, let them know you care
- Do your research so you’re fully informed when/if they need to talk
- Act interested and tell them you’re always available to listen
- Ask them what they need and how exactly you can help them
- Provide extra outreach to the man too, who might be forgotten in all of this
- Encourage therapy, and even share with them your personal story with therapy if you’ve ever experienced it
- Support their decision to stop treatment when they decide enough is enough
- Remember them on Mother’s and Father’s Day, and do something special for them
- Attend difficult appointments with them or even just drive them there and stay in the waiting room
- Offer to watch their older kids for them and give them a break
- Offer to be an exercise buddy, or do any extra curricular activity with them to help them get their mind off the issue at hand
- You can let them know about your pregnancy, but do so in a way that lets them handle their reaction privately (email is best)
And what may be even more important than knowing what to say is knowing what NOT to say.
Many times people think they are helping with comments like “just relax, it’ll happen when it’s supposed to” or “you’re young, you have plenty of time” when in reality such comments are enough to push emotionally-spent couples over the edge.
Our own Cassie Kelley explains how detrimental saying the wrong things can be, and how a careless, insensitive remark can do more damage than saying nothing at all.
At the end of the day, as touchy and emotional as the subject is, simply being there for your friend in whatever capacity she needs will make a world of difference and she’ll appreciate your unconditional love and genuine friendship.