There are not many subjects more sensitive than someone’s fertility. Whether they have just started trying to conceive or are about to embark on another IVF attempt, it is a subject that is highly emotionally, intensely private and hugely significant. It is one that should be handled sensitively – but often isn’t.
People don’t usually mean to be cruel but thoughtless words can often hurt more than intended.
There are some things that you just shouldn’t say to someone with fertility issues – here are just a few of them.
Even though these come from a place of good intentions, saying things like “just relax and it’ll happen” or “you’re so young, there’s still heaps of time” is more likely to enrage a woman, or couple, who have fertility issues than it is likely to make them feel better.
Remember that you don’t have to make them feel better, because the only thing that can really do that is their own baby. However, what you can do is make them feel is supported and loved.
2. “I understand…”
Unless you also have fertility issues, and especially ones of the same kind, then you probably don’t really understand. It’s the “go-to” response when comforting someone, but it can be infuriating when someone says it without having any idea of how that situation actually feels.
The fact is that no person in the world has felt exactly the same way as anyone else, so claiming that you “understand” is never going to be a good course to take. Instead, just offer a supportive ear for them to vent or share, and ask how they’re doing every so often.
3. “My partner only has to LOOK at me for me to fall pregnant!”
You may mean well, it may be intended as a light-hearted jest, and you may even think they’ll find it funny. But they won’t. To someone with fertility issues, these words sound like insensitive bragging. Avoid this at all times.
One of the worst responses to someone telling you about their fertility issues is silence. It makes them feel like they shouldn’t be talking about it, or that it’s somehow taboo – it’s not – it’s brave that they’ve confided in you. It’s almost as bad if you smile or nod in acknowledgement, then immediately change the subject – it’s still disregarding the fact that someone just trusted you with that information, and could hurt their feelings.
What you should do is be kind, ask if they want to talk about it, and let them know you’re there to listen/offer support if need be.
5. “My kids are annoying, have one!” or “Pregnancy sucks!”
If you have kids — you have what they want. And if you constantly complain about your children to your friends with fertility issues you might come across as ungrateful and insensitive.
Also, they don’t want your kids, they want their own kids so don’t offer for them to “take one off your hands”. The same goes for pregnancy – in this instance, it pays to remember to how much they would give to be in your position.
6. “You know IVF is expensive and invasive, right?”
When someone has chosen to go down the IVF path, it’s safe to say they know what they’re in for, and they would rather have some stress, pain, and monetary hardship now and have kids later (or sooner, as one would hope), than be comfortable now and never get to hold their own baby.
So ultimately, yes, they know that, so there’s not much point saying it in the first place.
7. “Oh wow, IVF, how exciting!”
No. There is no other word but no. “Exciting” is not a word used to describe IVF, except for when you do fall pregnant as a result of IVF. The fact that this couple had to resort to IVF in order to have a baby is devastating for them.
No one wants to do IVF, the circumstances surrounding their fertility and their evaluation of the options in fertility treatment have led them down this path; they’d much rather have a baby without assistance if it were possible.