What People with Infertility Want You to Know
The fertility community has come a long way since in vitro fertilization (IVF) was first successfully used in the U.S. back in 1981, but there is still a long way to go. Many couples and individuals who have experienced an infertility diagnosis report varying levels of support and understanding from family and friends – even those who are well meaning.
It can be easy to accidentally say or imply something hurtful or judgmental to a member of a community of which you are not a part of, but this doesn’t mean that those with infertile family or friends shouldn’t take the time to learn how to react and speak when fertility becomes the topic of conversation. Chances are, you actually know someone with an infertility diagnosis – regardless of whether they have chosen to share this information. Becoming a helpful, supportive, and educated resource for infertile family and friends is a real kindness – here is what people with infertility want you to know.
No, I can’t just “relax,” and then it will happen.
Telling someone who is infertile simply to relax in order to get pregnant is nonsensical. Stress and infertility may be connected, but an infertility diagnosis is a medical issue. You cannot assume that the reason someone is unable to conceive is that she is stressed out when in fact there are numerous medical reasons why natural conception may not be possible. Also, it is unfair to assume that the female partner is the one (or the only one) who is infertile. Male infertility accounts for 1/3 of cases where couples cannot conceive, female infertility accounts for another 1/3 and the remaining 1/3 is unexplained.
Yes, I’ve heard of whatever treatment you are about to recommend.
If a couple or individual has been diagnosed by a physician or specialist, it is safe to assume they are receiving advice from a trained, experienced medical professional who will share a treatment recommendation they can consider. Telling someone that you heard of an experimental treatment over the radio or that you read something in a magazine once is not very helpful and can imply that your infertile friend or family member is not doing enough on his or her own. It’s completely understandable to want to provide advice when someone has a problem, but if you are not a fertility specialist or if you have not been asked for an opinion, then your suggestions can be hurtful and even possibly exasperating.
I’m not “better off” without children.
Off-hand comments such as “You’re better off without children because…” are incredibly hurtful and insensitive. Telling someone who is trying to conceive with fertility treatment that they’ll get more sleep, have more money, or be able to travel because they don’t have a baby is an unfortunate attempt to make someone feel better that will only cause emotional pain. If someone is willing to invest their time, energy and finances into a fertility treatment plan, then knowing that they’ll sleep better or have a large savings account without a child will be of no comfort.
Yes, secondary infertility is real and it can be very emotionally painful.
Secondary infertility occurs when a couple who already has one child through natural conception is unable to have another. Many couples with secondary infertility are often advised to be content with the child they have, that they are lucky to even have that child in the first place, and that they’re fine without a second or third baby in the family. Secondary infertility is just as difficult a journey as infertility – both cases involve those who desperately wish for a child that they are unable to conceive on their own. Secondary infertility should be treated with as much respect and care as infertility.