When you’re coping with infertility, certain comments and experiences can bring that pain to the forefront. Well-meaning remarks, family-focused events and sometimes even being around friends with babies can be painful when you’re longing to have a little one of your own. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone took a little class called “Infertility Etiquette?”
Friends and family who have not experienced infertility have good intentions, but often don’t understand how sensitive the situation may be. Truthfully, navigating the waters can be incredibly difficult for aspiring couples, as well as their friends and family. Here are 12 tips to help all parties build strong, supportive relationships.
“Many couples, whether they are experiencing infertility or not, may not know what to say or how to act when confronted with this topic,” explains reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Mary Hinckley with Reproductive Science Center in the East Bay. “Taking time to be aware, assessing what you can handle and planning a social strategy can help immensely.”
6 Tips for Couples Coping with Infertility:
- Anticipate when you might see children at events. If it’s too painful to be around youngsters, consider arriving just in time for the main event and not earlier.
- Consider social invitations carefully. You have no obligation to go to parties and events heavily attended by children or pregnant women, especially if it’s too difficult emotionally. When in doubt, decline.
- Be prepared. Plan an answer ahead of time should someone inquire about your intentions to have children. While relatives and close friends will understand, couples are under no obligation to discuss personal details about their infertility experiences.
- To hold, or not to hold? Holding a baby for some can bring hope, while for others it can be incredibly painful. Everyone may want to share in the joy of a baby as do you, but you must always listen to your personal needs first.
- Focus on your relationship with your partner and spending quality time together without discussing family planning. It could be a ski trip or a romantic getaway, or a simple date night.
- Concentrate on friendships with couples who don’t have children. Surrounding yourself with couples who aren’t child-centric can ease the pressure of what you are facing personally. Plan to spend time with couples or friends who don’t have children should child-filled gatherings become too much to bear.
6 “Infertility Etiquette” Tips for Friends & Family:
- Show support. A helpful hug and encouraging statement can make a world of difference. Spend quality time together and make plans without children as the main focus.
- Don’t complain about your own past or present pregnancy. Couples dealing with infertility hope for the day they can worry about pregnancy woes.
- Avoid minimizing the problem by discussing parenting struggles or saying “there are worse things that could happen.” Until you are in a couple’s shoes, you are unable to understand how difficult infertility can be.
- Stay away from offering advice or tips for a couple looking to conceive. Topics such as exercise, food and lifestyle are off limits. If they are seeing a physician, they are already aware of your suggestions. Couples coping with infertility also often cope with the unjust blame they place upon themselves. No need to increase the burden.
- Never say: “Just Relax.” Everyone has heard it before – just relax, if it is meant to be, it will happen. But looking at a couple’s situation and reducing it to a simple statement is insensitive and careless. If couples have tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to conceive, doctors consider couples infertile. While stress often appears to be a contributor, the human reproductive system is complex and affected by a number of biological and physical factors.
- Don’t push adoption. Each couple has their own approach to family building, and are well aware of their options. This is a tough topic to navigate, and pushing your opinion may not help them make a decision.
About Reproductive Science Center: Established in 1983, just two years after the first successful birth through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the United States, the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area has been a pioneering fertility medical practice for more than a quarter-century. RSC was also responsible for the nation’s second successful birth of a baby from a frozen embryo and is recognized today for its pregnancy rates and work with egg donors and egg donation for patients. Fertility doctors Dr. Galen, Dr. Weckstein, Dr. Willman, Dr. Hinckley, Dr. Sgarlata, Dr. Wachs and Dr. Ivani are specialists in infertility, recurrent pregnancy loss, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, miscarriages, male infertility, pre-implantation genetic screening (PGS), egg freezing and reproductive medicine surgery.