How to Support a Loved One Struggling with Infertility

This week is National Infertility Week and while my husband and I had a long journey to conceive, we were not diagnosed with infertility. We sought fertility treatments, and through our testing, were diagnosed with subfertlity. You can read about our fertility journey here.

What is infertlity versus subfertility?

Infertility is the inability to conceive without medical intervention.

Subfertlity is the extended delay in conceiving where there is no medical reasoning to explain the delay . The possibility of conceiving without medical assistance does exists, but takes longer than average. Subfertility is oftentimes mislabeled as “unexplained infertility”, but as my amazing fertility doctor at Boston IVF explained, infertility is not ever unexplained and has a specific diagnoses so this terminology is not accurate.

How to support someone living with fertility struggles –

  • Tell them you care and are there for when they want to talk. After opening up with our struggle, my close friends were taken back and felt a bit bad that they weren’t there for us in the past to provide support. They of course had no reason to feel bad from my perspective because there is no way to know someone is struggling with fertility until they open up about it. I think experiencing that reaction from loved ones within itself shows you are surrounded by loving, amazing people. Once someone struggling to conceive does open up to you, comfort them by letting them know that you feel for them and are always there to talk.They may not be ready to divulge into all the details because there are a lot of them, they can be exhausting and bring up so much sadness. Or they may be! And being a listening, empathic ear is what they need. Oftentimes when our loved ones are facing a battle, we have an internal struggle because we feel compelled to have answers or find a solution. You don’t need to feel that way because you won’t be the one to find them. Don’t let that urge of feeling compelled to have a solution that you know you cannot provide sway you away from showing your support verbally through letting them know you are there for them and physically through hugs.

    All of my amazing girlfriends would check in on us periodically or before/after appointments to see how we were doing. Our close guy friends would also send me virtual hugs or words of encouragement and our parents would always check in on the phone or video calls. All of these gestures are so impactful.

    We personally waited so long to open up because we had no idea what was causing the delay, and when you don’t know yourself, you don’t have much to express other than confusion, frustration or sadness. I didn’t want to bring sadness into the conversation when I was with my friends because those moments are what distracted me and made me forget about the thing I thought of every moment we weren’t together. I also didn’t want to open up until we had more answers because I didn’t want to mislabel ourselves into the world of infertility or subfertility in order to avoid diminishing people’s experiences that were or had been diagnosed.

    Everyone will open up at a different time during their journey.

    Once we were far enough into the fertility testing and honestly I was at my lowest of lows, I opened up. And this isn’t just hard on women. It is also hard on men in similar, but also different ways.

  • Remember their upcoming appointments. Two of my girlfriends always remembered our upcoming appointments and would text me the morning of just letting me know they were thinking about us. This act of kindness made such a huge impact and they’ll never know how much this meant to me. It brings tears to my eyes. I remember being so scared waiting for my sonohysterogram hycosy procedure and that text made me feel more calm and was a reminder of the amazing support system we had rallied behind us.
  • Remember them on mothers’ day and father’s day. These days in particular can be so painful for those struggling to conceive. Mother’s Day for the past two years made my heart ache and were filled with a lot of tears, even though S distracted me with thoughtful gestures “from” our furbaby, Muenster.While you may triple think over messaging or calling them on this day, you should do it if you have thought of them. It’s nothing but a thoughtful gesture.

    I think as humans, when we haven’t experienced something ourselves, we overthink so heavily about the “right” words and then decide to just not say anything. Sending a text or calling them to let them know that you’re thinking of them on this day, or out of the blue, is such a kind gesture that they will always remember. Being silent, not on these days in-particular, but as a whole, will likely destroy your relationship.

  • Encourage them to open up to other loved ones. Our support from our parents and best friends were so huge and I can’t imagine having gone through much of our journey without them. Having support from both is what helped us through so if your friend hasn’t confided in her parents yet, you can share how they would also be a loving and supportive system for him or her when they feel the time is right.
  • Encourage them to advocate for themselves. If your loved one opens up about their journey and you feel that they are not getting the medical support needed, you should feel empowered to gently speak up. If the OB says to wait until 15 months instead of the insurance-mandated 12 months to seek fertility help, that’s a great time to remind your loved one that they are in control of this aspect of their journey and can allow themselves to feel empowered to do what is best for their mental health and future family.
  • No matter what they WILL be a mom or dad one day. I heard this line from an OB on Instagram and it helped me through my darkest days. No matter through IVF, IUI, adoption, surrogacy… your loved one struggling right now WILL be a mom or dad one day. It’s a line that brings that, for me, brought and immense amount of hope, especially when I was really struggling emotionally.

What not to do or say to someone living with fertility struggles –

  • Ignore the struggle completely. Someone did this to me that I thought was a close friend. The road to conceive with fertility issues is very lonely, gut wrenching and physically/emotionally tolling. By not acknowledging this huge battle within a loved ones life, you are diminishing their feelings and belittling their struggle.. especially after being so brave to finally open up. True friends and supportive family do not do that. Some people walk into your life for one specific chapter, but true friends are there for your through it all.
  • “You’re young.. you have plenty of time.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason..”
  • “Just RELAX!” (why is this so common?)
  • “Take a vacation to relieve stress which is what helped Sally.”
  • “Why not just adopt?”

If you have a loved one struggling with fertility, I hope this post helps you feel empowered to support them. Try not to overthink. The “what not to do or say” advice is pretty fool proof. If you are a true friend and love this person, I highly doubt you’d ever act in this manner or say these things so don’t let that make you overthink. You also don’t need to find the perfect words. Your simple gesture of a text or phone call that you are there for them will be something they remember for the rest of their life.

Please reach out to me if you have anything to add to this topic or have questions on supporting your loved ones through their fertility journey.

Xo Mindy


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