NIAW: Infertility Etiquette


National Infertility Awareness Week is a movement to raise awareness about the disease of infertility which affects 7.3 million Americans

April 24th thru May 1st is National Infertility Awareness Week. Obviously I’m a bit behind. I want to post something about our story but I’m having a difficult time forming my thoughts. So in the mean time, I’m reposting something I posted quite awhile ago.

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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.

Here is a good video to check out too.

*I deleted the link to the second article because it was a broken link. Just an FYI.

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Comments

  1. Wow, what great advice! I have friends who’ve gone through infertility and I definitely just started going through past conversations in my head, hoping that I didn’t say anything I shouldn’t have! But now I have a good arsenal of what to say and do in the future. Thanks for sharing these tips, and in a very informative and non-accusatory way.

    Have an Extraordinary Day!

  2. This is such a great article. I posted my own little “What I want you to know about infertility” on my blog last year.

    I’m still praying for you!

  3. I was sitting here shaking my head on every “don’t” … saying, Yep, that’s right! Very good advice there!!!

  4. What a great reminder. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  5. It unbelievable that people actually say such insensitive stuff; that’s awful. Keeping you in my prayers…

  6. Amazing advice and a little respect should go as long way in how we treat others, eh?

    Thanks for coming by on SITS day (last week)!
    Holly
    504 Main

  7. I have the suspicion that my brother and his wife are going through this, but they haven’t said anything. Thanks for all the advice…just in case.

  8. i just found your blog…not sure how…but none the less I found it… perhaps a Blessing!!! I have gone through a lot of what you are going through and really appreciate this post because things like this do come out of peoples’ mouths. I think because they have not gone through it they are unsure what to say….BUT… think before you speak!!!

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