Infertility Etiquette

I get a lot of well-meaning, but sometimes insensitive things said to me about our infertility. Not every day, but often enough to make it annoying and hurtful. I found a couple articles of what not to say and what to say to someone like me.

First article

Infertility affects nearly one in six couples. Approximately 40% of the time, the problem is related to the female partner, another 40% is related to male difficulties and 20% of the time both partners will have medical problems. Many times, infertility is a symptom of an underlying disease process, a disease process the couples have no control over. To these couples, infertility can be a crisis of the deepest kind. Every menstrual cycle represents a failure and is a time of grief for the potential child that never came to be.

The infertile couple will often express their feelings through anger, frustration, feelings of inadequacy, depression and guilt. Relationships with family members with children can suffer, marriages are strained and well-meaning friends and family can overload the couple with advice and pressure. Family and social gatherings become a reminder of infertility. Baby showers can be a traumatic experience. Mother’s and Father’s Day are often very difficult.

We want to offer some tips that provide support to couples who have not yet had the blessing of a beautiful child to love. With your assistance, most couples going though the process of trying to conceive can maintain a positive attitude.

What Not To Say…

Don’t ask a childless person when they are going to have a child. They may be going through the process of trying to conceive but have not yet achieved success. Asking them only reminds them of their problem. They need no extra reminders.

Don’t relate stories of your fertility to them. Hearing “my husband just has to look at me and I get pregnant” is very annoying. While well-meaning, the statement is insensitive.

Don’t give advice such as “just relax,” “you are trying too hard” or “take a cruise.” All of these very common comments imply that the couple have control of their fertility. Most of the time, these couples have absolutely no control over their fertility. Implying control leads to feelings of failure and guilt when this advice doesn’t work.

Don’t offer advice such as sexual timing, position, herbal medications or other totally unproven therapies. There are literally hundreds of old-wife’s-tails that, when followed, can drive an infertile patient nearly crazy. Their physician will have covered those natural aspects of their care that may maximize their chances for conception. Once again, please to not imply that they have a sense of control.

Don’t express your derogatory personal opinions regarding insemination procedures, test-tube babies or adoption. Sometimes, these are their only hope for having a child. These are your opinions and uninvited advice is rarely desired nor constructive. You are absolutely entitled to your opinion, simply keep it your own. If they ask for your advice, then feel free to state your opinions, but do so in a kind and considerate manner.

Don’t place blame by accusing the couple of exercising too much, eating the wrong foods or drinking alcohol. These couples may already be blaming themselves. Their physician will have already covered the medical and reproductive consequences of obesity, smoking, alcohol and recreation drugs. Support them in the cessation of these activities and minimize the guilt associated with their consumption. The guilt rarely leads to cessation but often moves the individual to increased consumption.

What You Can Say and Do…

Do provide couples with plenty of emotional support by saying “It must be difficult to go through this” and “I’m here to listen if you need to talk.”

Do remember that men can be just as emotional about the problem, sometimes even more so. They may feel their masculinity is at risk.

Do understand the couple’s need for privacy.

Do try to understand that if they are your employees, frequent doctor’s appointments may be necessary during business hours. Please try to accommodate them as much as possible. Not doing so may also be construed as a form of discrimination and place you at legal risk.

Do understand why they may not make it to a baby shower or a holiday event. These frequent events can become overwhelming for an infertile couple.

Do tell the infertile couple that there is hope.

Conclusions: Please remember that the vast majority of infertile couples have minimal control of the diseases that causes their infertility. Giving them emotional support during this trying time is a wonderful way to assist them. Giving them subtle hints that they have control plants the seeds of failure in the minds of the infertile patient.
Please be kind, thoughtful and always supportive.

And here is another article from RESOLVE that covers more of the same.

Here is a good video to check out too.

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Comments

  1. That’s a great article and some really good advice.

    My mom had several miscarriages because she has an “incompetent cervix” (how’s that for a nice, sensitive medical term?), and I won’t even repeat some of the horrible comments that people made to her about miscarrying. Truthfully, some people are just jerks.

    You’re in my prayers!

  2. These are some really good tips that I plan to definitely follow. Thanks for being an advocate, not only for yourself and your husband, but also for for others going through similar situations.

  3. I’ve dealt with physical issues all of my life. But when infertility reared it’s ugly head I had no idea just how completely out of control I would feel.

    These are some great ideas of how to treat an infertile couple without offending them.

    (((hugs)))

  4. This a great post-would you mind if I linked to you on this post?

  5. That was a really helpful article to post. I know that sometimes well-meaning people just can’t express what they are wanting to say, or find the right words.

    I would like to offer you my support, I will be here for your journey.

  6. Beautiful post, my friend. I remember always being told to relax. I would be like, “you mean to tell me that I haven’t relaxed ONCE in five years? Come on!”

    I hated being told to go on vacation, buy a car, buy a boat, buy another pet. Great, then I am in debt, with no baby, and a pet I don’t want.

    I am sure people mean well but they have no idea how much pressure they can add. My friend used to call me every month to see if I was pregnant.

    Every month, you experience the death of a dream…the dream of having a baby.

    no it’s not easy. And it’s not something you can easily forget. I can still cry sometimes because I didn’t get the big family I always wanted. But I am trusting the Lord and thankful for the two that I have.

    But my heart goes out to you. Because I do remember what it was like during all those long years of waiting.

  7. great article Megan.

  8. I appreciate this post! There’s been several times when I read several blogs, and I’m not sure what to say. My heart breaks for you and others. I want to supports you as best I can!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. So true. I’ve been there. I will tell people what we did, if they ask. But only because I’ve been there when we were ttc Abigail.

    It’s hard. So hard. HUGE hugs.

  10. thank you for sharing this. i now know what to say (hopefully i can remember it)

    thanks for following me ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. thanks for this post! sometimes I do reach for what is the right thing to say b/c i don’t want to be offensive or hurt someone’s feelings.

  12. i agree! Im glad you shared these thing with us! Sometimes I just dont know what to say and i hate to fumble over myself!

  13. beautifully said…AMEN to all of it!

  14. AWESOME post! Thanks for sharing.

  15. What a great article.

    I have good friends that adopted after so many struggles and these same principles can be applied there. They go so tired of people constantly asking what was going on with the process. It is really about education I guess. So many have been through it yet so many don’t understand it.

    Offer hugs and understanding!! Smooches!

  16. Great advice. Having walked in those shoes I agree with every word.

  17. So true, thanks for posting this article.

  18. ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚
    Prayers and love headed your way…

  19. Very insightful post…having been in your shoes in the past, I can relate to getting a lot of the ‘Don’t’ comments directed at me…it’s not an enjoyable situation to be in.

    You are in my thoughts and prayers!

  20. Thanks for the good advice. I’ve seen those facing this challenge as they try to put up with insensitive comments from others. I can only imagine how annoying these comments must be (well intentioned or not). I wish you the best.

  21. Wow…loved the advice. Having also walked in your shoes and has come through those steps we to came across people that I just wanted to slap!! My girlfriend who also went through IVF 6 times and just had a baby girl have talked and decided that we need to say something to these people to HELP them. So that they don’t say it to the NEXT women…. I would like to print this and hand it out to people that say insensitive things.
    I am put your blog in my favorite to watch your progress… I to had the rage but something my girlfriend told me once… “Sit in it” helped me so much. When I felt like crying..I cried…when I wanted to shout…I did. There was a 3 hour pitty party in my bathroom once. But when I felt myself trying to brush my feelings aside…I would hear my friend…Shopping once it hit and I stood in the aisle and just felt the saddness…it past and I just paid and left… But we are out here and there are more of us then I could have ever thought!! We are just quiet…
    Take care!!!
    Diane Vigil
    addingavigil

  22. This is great advice! I find people asking if or when you’ll have a child to be a bit rude. It’s such a personal issue, but for some reason women’s fertility is totally up for commentary.

    Big hugs!

  23. I can’t even count how many times I dealt with your “don’t” list. People just don’t think…

    And I’ll follow a bit of your advice. There really IS hope! After 12 long years dealing with infertility, I’m now the proud mother of not one, but TWO children. Keep hanging in there!

  24. Ugh I can relate so much to all of this.I know the pain of infertility and all the things people say to you that make you want to either pull your hair out or cry. My story had a happy ending with twins after some surgical procedures, fertility drugs and near death experiences but I will always have a place in my heart for those who continue to struggle. Today I will say a special prayer that you will one day be a parent. We are lucky that there are many more options than there were even ten years ago but the whole process is gut wrenching and all consuming. Thank you for making those without fertility issues aware of the things they say and do make those facing fertility challenges feel.

  25. Thanks for posting this. While we struggled with fertility for a while (doctors told us my hubby may never father children)we were eventually blessed. That being said, I do not know to anguish of going through medical procedures and a dear friend does. I’ve never known quite what to say to her.
    The crazy thing is that when you are having trouble getting pregnant, people say nasty things. Then when we finally GOT pregnant and it was twins, I heard even MORE nasty things! People can be such jerks. Best of luck.

  26. Thanks for putting up this post. It’s so helpful.

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