Infertility Etiquette 101: Support Friends & Family During National Infertility Awareness Week
National Infertility Awareness Week (April 19-25, 2015), from RESOLVE, brings the fertility community together to help eliminate the stigma often felt by those seeking treatment to have a child. Even in 2015, with all of our advances in reproductive technology, and with the sheer number of couples and individuals who have sought fertility care, the public often misunderstands the world of assisted reproduction. Many fertility patients express that comments and questions from family and friends, including those trying to be supportive, can be confusing and hurtful – although they understand this is likely due to a lack of awareness.
Comments from those with whom you’ve willingly shared your journey to parenthood can also sting. As a fertility patient, you are already experiencing the ups and downs that come with diagnosis and treatment. Facing conversations where you fear judgment or unkind remarks can add to your stress level. Some patients report these feelings make them feel as if they should not share their experiences at all. This is incredibly unfortunate since both women and men seeking fertility care need outlets where they can speak openly about their feelings and experiences.
However, as more people seek treatment, their friends and family are also learning about the fertility community. In order to support fertility patients, we should encourage those around us to engage in Infertility Etiquette 101.
Tips for practicing good infertility etiquette:
Do not press someone for more information than they feel comfortable sharing. Fertility treatment can be straightforward or invasive. You should not push someone for the full story on their surgery or treatment plan unless they feel comfortable confiding in you.
Avoid the phrase “Just relax, and it will happen.” Telling someone to relax so they can get pregnant will have no bearing on their ability to conceive – it will only serve as a reminder that their friends and family may not see their infertility as a real medical condition.
Avoid advice about treatment unless you have personal experience with that line of treatment. Asking someone, “Why haven’t you tried…” can be an exhausting process for those who have probably already tried everything aside from their current treatment plan.
Do not say: “Maybe you aren’t meant to be a parent,” or “There are worse things that could happen,” or “You’re so lucky, think of all the money and time you’ll have to travel,” or “You’ll sleep so much better without a baby.” These comments are in no way helpful to someone who is trying to have a child but is unable to do so on their own– in fact, they can be quite hurtful.
Offer to help when you can: drive your friend or family member to an appointment, or run their errands while they are undergoing treatment. You may find you won’t always be asked to help, but offering your time and energy can go a long way.