Individuals and couples who are struggling to conceive often feel pressure from friends, family, and even strangers when it comes to having kids. Well-meaning loved ones can say something innocently, but it can come across as insensitive. Even a seemingly innocuous question can be misconstrued as intrusive.
Dr. Desireé McCarthy-Keith, Medical Director and board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at SGF Atlanta, was interviewed by The New York Times about what to say to someone struggling with infertility.
If you are a loved one or friend of someone who is trying to conceive or might be trying to conceive, read these four ways to best support them during their journey to parenthood.
“There’s just so many ways that you can just be present in someone’s life and just say, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about you today.’ That’s it. That’s all you have to say to make a difference,” said Dr. McCarthy-Keith.
She suggests a gentle approach with others. We have to be sensitive and not intrude, she said, but it’s a fine line because we don’t want them to feel ignored. Ask how they’re doing, and if they say, “I’m fine,” without elaborating, then leave it alone. “It’s such a private and personal issue that you have to tread very lightly.”
Prepare for the possibility that the couple might prefer to keep the details to themselves. Respect their space and understand that they will share updates when they’re ready.
Avoid Reframing the Issue
People can be especially insensitive to couples undergoing secondary infertility, Dr. McCarthy-Keith said. Blurting out something like, “Well, at least you already have a baby,” is inconsiderate. “What we have to remember is that whether you have zero children, or you have five, if you are having infertility — if you’re ready to be pregnant and you’re having trouble getting pregnant — that is still hurtful,” she explained.
Validate their Pain
Sometimes when Dr. McCarthy-Keith’s patients experience a setback, whether their IVF cycle wasn’t successful or they miscarried, she’ll say something like: “I know this is bad news. This is hurtful and I’m sorry.”
When someone in her care is sad or grappling with the process, she will tell them: “I know this is rough. I know this hurts and I’m with you.” It doesn’t take a lot of words to let someone know you’re a source of comfort, she said. Just say: “I know you’re hurting; I’m hurting with you.”
Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice
“Just relax and it will happen” is a common refrain said to women and men who are anxious to conceive, and yet, this type of advice carries many insidious undertones, according to fertility specialists.
“I remember cringing inside at some of the advice I received. I’m sure the remarks were never meant to be hurtful, but it brought to light how misguided our society really is about the realness of infertility. The feelings of loss, isolation, longing, even anger felt so real. Before I found SGF, I wondered how come no one before presented me with any real solutions,” shares a former SGF patient and now mother of 4.
SGF decided to launch a new campaign to encourage couples who are struggling to conceive to consider proven methodologies and data-supported treatment approaches for best chances at pregnancy.
If you would like to learn more or schedule an appointment with an SGF physician, please speak with one of our New Patient Liaisons at 877-971-7755 or fill out this brief form.