When it comes to all things baby-making, pregnancy and parenting, everyone around us is an expert. They offer unsolicited comments and advice in an attempt to “fix” whatever you are struggling with at the time. Most people are coming from a good place while others have lost their brain-to-mouth filter or have forgotten what’s appropriate dinner conversation. Despite my own infertility issues, I’m guilty of having said a couple of these things to other women because I didn’t know where they were coming from. But I know now what it’s like to burst into tears when someone asks why you aren’t pregnant yet. Click through to find out the 12 things you shouldn’t say to someone being treated for infertility.
Getting pregnant is supposed to be easy and natural, right? Unfortunately, for 1 in 8 couples it's not. About 7.3 million women and their partners are affected by infertility in the US. It's a real medical condition affecting the reproductive system. Most people may have good intentions or are simply curious, but we don't always recognize how our questions are being received. Here are 12 things you shouldn't say to a woman and her partner who are receiving fertility treatments.
Someone somewhere decided that conceiving a baby would happen if you practiced the deed enough. You need to have more sex! is probably the most common thing said to couples struggling to conceive. It seems logical and reasonable. It works for some because the more shots on goal, the better your chances of hitting the ovulation window. However, it's not always that simple. By the time a couple starts infertility treatments they have probably done the deed A LOT. And on a schedule.
You’re trying too hard. Relax, and take your time. What’s the rush? It'll happen when it happens. It'll happen when you stop trying. It'd be nice if everything resolved itself this way, but she was probably relaxed the first year or so of trying to conceive. Even though I finally conceived after we briefly stopped focusing on trying, it doesn't mean that is the magic answer.
Aren’t you afraid of having multiples? I totally get why people might wonder, but even fertile couples can conceive multiples naturally. This question may also tie into very difficult IVF treatment decisions.
How much is this costing you? Isn't it expensive? Asking about finances is a bit personal. Plus, don't we moms say our children are priceless? There's also the fact that infertility costs rack up emotional as well as financial debt. And if it is breaking their bank, that can be embarrassing to discuss.
"I’ll be your surrogate!" may seem like a generous offer, but it isn't appropriate unless she's actually discussing surrogacy as her next step. Otherwise, it may make her feel like you are urging her to quit trying. In a vulnerable and tender moment it will also remind her that her body can't do what yours does.
At least you already have one. Infertility can affect couples who've already had one or more children. Just because they've successfully had one doesn't mean they won't struggle to have another, nor does it mean they shouldn't desire additional children. I admit to thinking this before I knew better. Now I understand the uncertainty that can go into family planning.
Besides being deeply personal, asking "Which one of you has the problem?" can bring up a lot of complicated feelings. Both partners have likely undergone testing, and no one likes to feel "broken." And sometimes it is not entirely clear why conception hasn't been successful. Sometimes the birds and the bees are complicated.
While I grappled with my own infertility issues, a pregnant acquaintance complained to me about getting pregnant by accident. She knew I had been trying to conceive for at least a year at that point. Our individual struggles made us a mismatch to help each other. On the other hand, please don't apologize for getting pregnant. Just respect that others may need some emotional space and distance themselves. But never, ever brag to an infertile woman that you never had to try to get pregnant or that all your kids were “oopsies.”
You could always adopt. Why don’t you adopt? There are so many kids who need good homes. While adoption is an option, that's not what someone wants to hear when trying to conceive. It dismisses their desire to have a biological child. It's quite possible adoption is already part of the plan down the road, but you must let her get there on her own.
So what can you say? Try nothing. Offer her an ear or a shoulder instead. Listen without trying to offer solutions unless specifically asked. Offer support by being there for her. She will appreciate knowing you are simply there for her.