As someone who has dealt with infertility, I know what it’s like to have people around you say all the wrong things – to the point where there are people I no longer speak with because of things they said to me at the time (probably well-meaning…). It’s a tough subject, so if you find yourself struggling, keep reading.
We turned to Claire O’Neill, the founder of FertilitySpace, to get her expert advice on how to support loved ones struggling with infertility/IVF.
Don’t take it personally if they can’t attend your baby-related events
The general feeling tends to be: happy for you, sad for me. If your friend has been trying to get pregnant for a number of years, it might be difficult for her to be around so many others that have not struggled to conceive. Especially in the case where there could be acquaintances present who will ultimately ask her “so are you planning on having kids?” or pregnant couples who will say, “we weren’t even trying!”.
Events such as kids birthday parties, christenings, and baby showers may be hard for your friend to go to. Some women have no problem with this while others may feel torn between wanting to support you and worrying they’ll be too upset if they attend.
If you do have a friend who you know is experiencing infertility, make sure after the invite is sent that you reach out to your friend directly to let her know that you support her, you’re thinking of her, and while you’d absolutely love to have her join in on your celebration, you also understand if she doesn’t feel up to attending.”
Let them know you’re available to listen
“Your friend doesn’t need any advice and probably doesn’t want to hear any success stories you’ve heard, they really just need someone who is there to listen.
If your friend has let you know that they’ve been struggling with infertility, try to be as supportive as possible by letting them know that they can feel free to talk to you whenever they want and that you’re there for them.
Make sure to check in on them from time to time just to catch up and see how they’re doing. Give them a call or ask them to lunch! Your friend might not always feel up to talking about it but they’ll appreciate the gesture.”
Educate yourself about the process
“It’s so thoughtful to reach and lend an ear to a friend who is struggling with infertility. But it can be less helpful than intended if your friend feels like she has to spend 85% of the time explaining the process of her treatment and how it works in order to be able to get to the point of sharing how she’s actually doing through it all.
This is an easy fix! There are so many resources out there that explain the process of an IUI or an IVF cycle that you can read to familiarize yourself with what your friend is undergoing.
If you learn a little bit about what your friend is going through, it can make you a much better shoulder to lean on!”
Ask how you can help/send a gift to show your support
“Fertility treatment can be exhausting and take up a huge amount of time. During treatment a lot of women have to juggle their day-to-day life on top of attending countless appointments, scheduling tests, calling insurance, coordinating medication shipments from their pharmacy, injecting medications at specific times daily, and waiting for updates on how their treatment went. It can be a full-time job within itself, which is why your friend would probably really appreciate some small show of support.
You can offer to send them take-out delivery, bring them food, run errands, send a laundry service or house cleaner. Whatever you think would help make your friend feel a little more organized.
You could even give them a thoughtful gift, although I’d caution against anything directly baby-related. If you need ideas, we have a blog post listing gift ideas for a friend doing IVF.
Good options are something along the lines of self-care such as a massage certificate, pedicure, fertility acupuncture session, or a session with a fertility coach who specializes in supporting women undergoing fertility treatment.
Another option is something inspirational such as embryo transfer socks, a framed quote you know your friend would like, a beautiful candle if she likes candles, etc. Make it something small and specific to her. “
Spouses: take on every administrative task you can
If you are undergoing infertility treatments with your female partner, you know that the brunt of the testing and procedures fall to the woman.
This can be very stressful and on top of all of those tests and appointments, there’s a lot of scheduling, phone calls, deliveries, injections, and payments to be made in relation to treatments like IVF.
Try to be as helpful as possible by taking charge of some of the administrative tasks such as corresponding with the insurance company, tracking billing at the clinic, or volunteering to administer all the IVF injections for your spouse.”