Unless you’ve been through it, it’s hard to understand the emotional rollercoaster that people go through when they’re struggling to conceive. Many people who experience fertility issues have to face unsolicited advice, generic platitudes, the invalidation from family and friends or care providers, and an immeasurable mental and emotional load. Because of this, if a loved one of yours is on a fertility journey or is undergoing the IVF process, it’s helpful to know some specific ways that you can be supportive.
People experiencing infertility benefit from a strong, healthy support system, which you can be a part of.
It's important to understand that everyone's infertility experience is different, and the support they need may be different than for someone else.
You can help support a loved one experiencing infertility by researching infertility, making it easy for them to share their experiences with you, accompanying them to appointments, and taking note of important dates.
To start, everyone is different. While one person might welcome you as a shoulder to cry on or vent to, another may be more reserved and prefer not to be so open. Staying sensitive to how they are responding will help you be aware of their preferences and respect their choices.
As part of Infertility Awareness Month, here’s our guide for loved ones supporting someone having difficulty conceiving:
For someone experiencing infertility, it can be emotionally exhausting to also have to educate loved ones about infertility and dispel any myths they may have. As a loved one, knowing the basics about medical conditions that can cause infertility, fertility treatments and tests, and understanding what goes into intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF) will help you become a knowledgeable and safe space.
Asking thoughtful questions is a great way to show support. However, let them drive the conversation. Reflect what you have heard them say and let them tell you the narrative of their experience.
It may help to ask how they’re feeling about what they’re experiencing without making assumptions about what it’s like for them. Their emotions about their infertility journey can be complex, and getting to voice that complexity without fear of judgment can be a relief. Asking open-ended questions, such as “What was that like for you?” or “How are you feeling today?” allows them to answer with what they are genuinely experiencing.
Not everyone is open to talking about infertility, though, so let them know that it’s completely okay if they’re not comfortable or ready to talk. Respecting their privacy is also a way to give them your support!
Having a supportive person along for appointments can take away some of the sense of isolation that can come with infertility, especially if they’re undergoing IVF. You can also meet them after an appointment for a walk, coffee, or meal.
If they are on a solo IVF journey or have a partner who is unable to take them, they may also need someone to bring them home from certain appointments, such as after an egg retrieval. If you are available to do so, offering your help to bring them home so they don’t have to ask is a great way to provide support.
If your loved one is undergoing infertility treatment or IVF, they may be thinking about parenthood or pregnancy all the time. You can give them a respite from the bubble of their thoughts by involving them in different activities, like going to the movies, taking a walk, or meeting them for lunch.
However, it will help to do a little research beforehand to ensure you’re truly giving them a break. For instance, don't take them to a movie where a key plot involves a baby shower or pregnancy loss!
If they’re not in the mood to go out with you, you can respect their boundaries without disappearing. Instead, take advantage of some of these other suggestions to offer your support.
Especially with IVF, there are a ton of important dates and milestones. If you are a close friend, family member, or partner, helping hold the burden of tracking these important dates can take some of the pressure off the person going through IVF. You can also plan ahead for how you will support them on those days.
If you are a support person for them in another way or live far away, be sure to listen to them while they are talking about IVF. If they bring up a particular date, like an upcoming appointment or something significant – like the date of embryo transfer – mark that day down. Sending a text message (or even a card!) on milestone dates can be a great way to show support. A simple text like, "I hope everything went well today" or "Thinking of you today" will let them know you care.
Your support can make a huge difference for someone experiencing infertility. Since everyone has different needs, paying careful attention to how they respond will help you figure out how to be there for them in a way that feels good to both of you.
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