There are not many subjects more sensitive than someone’s fertility. Whether they’ve just starting trying to conceive or are about to embark on another IVF attempt, it is a subject that is highly emotionally, intensely private and hugely significant. It is one that should be handled sensitively – but often isn’t.
People don’t usually mean to be cruel but thoughtless words can often hurt more than intended.
There are some things that you just shouldn’t say to someone with fertility issues – here are just a few of them.
7 things you shouldn’t say to someone with fertility issues
These are your worst enemy. Saying things like “just relax and it’ll happen” or “you’re so young, there’s still heaps of time” is more likely to enrage a woman, or couple, who have fertility issues than it is likely to make them feel better. In fact, don’t try to make them feel better at all, because the only thing capable of actually doing that is their own baby. The best you can hope to make them feel is supported and loved.
2. “I understand…”
Do you really? Unless you also have fertility issues, and especially ones of the same kind, then no, you don’t. It’s the “go to” response when comforting someone, but it can be infuriating when someone says it without having any idea of how that situation actually feels. The fact of the matter is that no person in the world has felt exactly the same way as anyone else, so claiming that you “understand” is never going to be a good course to take. Instead, just offer a supportive ear for them to vent or share, and ask how they’re doing every so often.
3. “My partner only has to LOOK at me for me to fall pregnant!”
You may mean well, it may be intended as a light-hearted jest, and you may even think they’ll find it funny. But they won’t. To someone with fertility issues, hearing these words is nothing but insensitive bragging. Avoid this at all times.
One of the worst responses to someone telling you about their fertility issues is silence. It makes them feel like they shouldn’t be talking about it, or that it’s somehow taboo – it’s not – it’s brave that they’ve confided in you. It’s almost as bad if you smile or nod in acknowledgement, then immediately change the subject – it’s still disregarding the fact that someone just trusted you with that information, and could hurt their feelings. What you should do is be kind, ask if they want to talk about it, and let them know you’re there to listen/offer support if need be.
5. “My kids are annoying, have one!” or “Pregnancy sucks, I’ve been so sick!”
You’ve got kids; you have what they want. If you complain about your children to your friends with fertility issues it might come across as ungrateful and insensitive. Also, they don’t want your kids, they want their own kids so don’t offer for them to “take one off your hands”. The same goes for pregnancy – in this instance, it pays to remember to be thankful you’re pregnant at all.
6. “You know IVF is expensive and invasive, right?”
“Oh, IVF is hard? Sorry, maybe I’ll just get over wanting kids with time.” For the record, no one will reply to your question like this. When someone has chosen to go down the IVF path, it’s safe to say they know what they’re in for, and they would rather have some stress, pain, and monetary hardship now and have kids later (or sooner, as one would hope), than be comfortable now and never get to hold their own baby. So ultimately, yes, they know that, so there’s not much point saying it in the first place.
7. “Oh wow, IVF, how exciting!”
No. There is no other word but no. “Exciting” is not a word used to describe IVF, except for when you do fall pregnant as a result of IVF. The fact that this couple had to resort to IVF in order to have a baby is devastating for them. No one wants to do IVF, the circumstances surrounding their fertility and their evaluation of the options in fertility treatment have led them down this path; they’d much rather have a baby without assistance if it were possible.
And if you’re wondering what you SHOULD say then read 9 ways to support your friend with fertility issues.
Visit our fertility and conception information hub for more tips, advice and support