How to support someone experiencing infertility
Most people today know someone who is going through fertility treatment. But few people actually know how to support them. In this article, we give you six tips on how to communicate with someone who is facing infertility.
27. september - 2022
What people usually need is for someone to listen and acknowledge their feelings. A way of showing that you support them without intruding on their private grief or stress, can be to invite them to express what they are going through without asking a lot of questions.
When supporting a friend or family member facing infertility, it’s important to educate yourself and remember that often it's more helpful to listen than to speak.
Here are six more tips to sensitive and supportive communication.
Validate their feelings
Studies suggest that most women with infertility do not share their struggles with family or friends. This secrecy increases their feelings of depression, anxiety or low self-esteem. Asking open-ended questions like, "How can I best support you?" or, "What can I do for you during this time?" shows that you want to understand their situation and can open the door to a helpful dialogue.
Ask, don't assume
Constantly trying to figure out if someone is pregnant can be upsetting for the person with infertility. "Don't constantly look for clues or ask leading questions".
Don't minimise their condition
Statements like, "You will get to sleep in," or, "It will happen soon enough" minimise the pain and sorrow a couple or woman may be experiencing. Being overly positive about a situation does not help either. There's no certainty when facing infertility. Acknowledging the uncertainty is more helpful for someone with infertility rather than having a false sense of hope.
Every person's journey with infertility is different. Comparing someone's situation with someone else's can create stress and make them feel as if they're doing something wrong.
Avoid statements such as:
- "I know a friend who…"
- "Take a vacation…"
- "Have you tried…"
- "Maybe you should just…"
- "Relax. All that stress is causing your infertility."
- "Why don't you just adopt?"
Be sensitive when talking about your own pregnancy or children
If you are pregnant or have kids of your own, don't complain. Aches from your growing baby bump or lack of sleep from caring for a newborn can be painful reminders of what your friend has not been able to have.
If you are newly pregnant, you may be tempted to avoid sharing the news, but eventually that will impact the strength of your relationship. Instead, approach the conversation with sensitivity.
- Be honest: Tell your friend you're expecting before they find out from someone else. Have the conversation in a quiet, private setting where they don't feel pressured to disguise their feelings.
- Give them space: Allow your friend time and space to process this information and work through their feelings. Don't take any negative responses personally. Let them know that you understand and will be there if and when they are ready to talk.
- Be thoughtful: Find other topics and activities to share with your friend. Check in on them and let them know you are thinking of them.
Keep them involved
Your friend may be uncomfortable attending your children's birthday parties and other special events centred around kids. However, extend the invitation anyway to show you still value the friendship.
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