Infertility is far more common than you may realise. Though many couples find that once they decide to start a family they’re on their way to picking out prams and cute little outfits within a few months, this isn’t true for everyone. The fact is, someone you know right now, whether in your extended family or your friendship group, is probably struggling with infertility or difficulty conceiving. This issue can be difficult to discuss and hard for some to open up about but it can also involve a great deal of emotional distress and a heavy burden on the couple. That means that if your friend is battling to become pregnant, it’s especially important that you step up the support and help her through this difficult time.
Don’t presume to be an expert on infertility if you’ve never experienced it yourself, even if you’ve done a little Googling or been through a pregnancy or miscarriage before. It’s great to do a little research by yourself so you can understand your friend’s struggle more clearly and have the basics down on what treatment options are available and what specialists can help, but ultimately you should allow them to lead the conversation where they want it to go. Everyone’s experience is unique. It’s crucial that you ask your friend what’s they are experiencing and allow them to disclose what they feel comfortable sharing with you. Ask them questions about how you can be there for them, what would be helpful, and what they need from you at this particular time. They may want extensive support and ask you to come with them to their infertility clinic appointments, or they may ask for some space to process and cope with what’s going on in privacy. Be willing to offer whatever works best for them.
If you’re a mother yourself or pregnant, it can be difficult to shut down the constant stream of baby-related thoughts in your mind, and it’s natural to want to chat a lot about all of the changes you’re going through and the ups and downs of parenting. However, it’s generally kinder to keep those conversation topics to a minimum when talking to your friend who is having a hard time falling pregnant. These discussions, while seemingly normal to those who haven’t experienced fertility issues, can trigger powerful feelings of sadness and even resentment in your friend, and even lead her to pull away from you in order to protect her own feelings. It’s not that she doesn’t love you and your children, but these topics can just be too painful at times.
Avoid Unsolicited Advice
As with many health problems, our first response is often to try to offer advice or solutions to help solve our friends’ problems. That’s understandable, but it can actually be more irritating than useful. The reality is that your friend will have already read all the tips and advice out there, from the scientific material to the far-fetched old wives tales, and your suggestion probably won’t be the miraculous solution that changes everything. Get used to listening instead of talking, and allow your friend to use you as a shoulder to cry on and an understanding friend to turn to rather than a source of unsolicited advice.