Navigating your pregnancy when friends struggle with infertility

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Pregnancy can feel so all-encompassing. You are experiencing daily changes in your body, your mood may well fluctuate minute to minute, and people are likely to be treating you differently. It is no wonder that many pregnant women spend so much time thinking and talking about their pregnancy and impending motherhood. Which is likely to be fine for your partner, family, friends and co-workers. Unless they are experiencing infertility….

Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying. Women over the age of 35 can meet the definition after six months. If you got pregnant easily, it might be hard to understand how incredibly challenging infertility can be. But research shows that women experiencing infertility have the same level of anxiety and depression as do women who have cancer, HIV+, or heart disease.

Infertility impacts every aspects of a woman’s life. It impacts her relationship with her partner, since men and women react to infertility in different ways. Generally women express more emotional distress and want to talk about it more than men. It also impacts their sex life, since both of them may begin to associate sex with failure. It can impact their relationships with family and friends, since well-meaning comments and suggestions can come across as intrusive. And in fact, most women don’t tell even close family members about it, so don’t have access to potential support. It can impact her job/career, since treatment often requires daily morning visits and she can’t travel during treatment cycles. Finally, infertility can drastically impact her financial security, since most people don’t have insurance to cover infertility treatment, and one in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle can cost up to $20,000. With an average chance of success of about 35 percent.

So how does this impact you? First of all, it is important for you to understand how tough a time an infertile friend or family member may be having. Be careful about offering advice. But most importantly, you need to understand how incredibly challenging your pregnancy may be for her. Many women with infertility report that the pregnancies of others are one of the hardest parts of the experience.

Pregnancy announcements can be excruciating. But a little forethought can go a long way.

The do’s and don’ts of dealing with infertile friends: 

DON’T expect that this will be easy for her, no matter how much she loves you or how close you are

DO tell her about your pregnancy in a sensitive way. Face to face announcements are the hardest so think about a brief phone call, or even leave a message for her or tell her in an email.

DON’T let her find out about your pregnancy from someone else.

DO tell her in advance of you making a public announcement to family or a group of friends

DON’T talk about your pregnancy. Let her ask questions in her own time.

DO include her in events, such as inviting her to your baby shower, but don’t be offended if she declines

DON’T be upset if she withdraws from your life while you are pregnant. She is simply protecting herself. It has nothing to do with how much she loves you or values her relationship with you.

DO be tolerant if she distances herself. Hopefully, once her infertility is resolved, you can pick up where you left off.

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