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What Not to Say to Couples Experiencing Infertility Issues

How to avoid being insensitive and what is the right thing to say

Published on: January 11, 2019

Couple having a serious talk

In recent years, there is a lot more awareness about infertility issues and people talk more openly about them.

But just because we’re all talking about infertility doesn’t necessarily mean that we know the best way to do it. Often, people try to be supportive but end up saying precisely the wrong thing.

As someone who’s been on the other side of this roller coaster ride, might I suggest a few things not to say to someone dealing with infertility?  

Why not just do IVF? 

Unless you are privy to the couple’s medical records, it’s not possible to know whether IVF is even an option. IVF is also an extremely costly procedure that requires a huge amount of planning and commitment for all concerned. For all you know, IVF might already be happening, but it’s not something to assume is the magical fix for all couples. 

Why don’t you just adopt a child?

Given the legal, ethical and moral implications, it’s really nobody’s business whether a couple chooses to have a biological child or to adopt. It’s not appropriate to judge someone’s choices when you don’t know what led them to make their decisions in the first place. 

I get pregnant so easily, I should just have one for you!

Yes, please remind me how you get pregnant at the drop of a hat, because I can’t hear about that enough. I once had someone ask me if I’d considered surrogacy, and my response was, “Why, are you offering?” That stopped the conversation quickly!

But the worst — and I wish it had only happened once — was when friends would offer me their husbands “services,” as in, “Jeff was so good at knocking me up, I’m sure he’d volunteer to help you out, heh heh.” Just ... don't.

It’s going to happen. Just don’t give up!

Nobody knows the private conversations that happen around a couple’s infertility, or how long they’ve been trying to conceive or what options they have considered or are yet to consider. That doesn’t change the fact that for some people, there’s a chance that numerous fertility treatments might not work or attempts to adopt a child might fall through. Either way, it’s not okay to assume it will all be okay.

Just think of all the money/travel/fun/free time you could have being child-free.

When all you want is a child of your own, it’s particularly painful to hear about the wonders of a child-free lifestyle. Trust me when I say that any couple going through infertility has had plenty of time to contemplate, and purposely reject, the choice of a child-free life and all its perks. It’s the entire point of what they’re going through. Reminding them of how great it is to not have kids is the last thing they want to hear. 

You should just relax. The moment you stop thinking about it, it’ll happen.

One thing infertility isn’t? Relaxing. Whether you’re contemplating options that are potentially mind-numbingly expensive, traumatic on the body, or legally entangled, there are a million things to worry about and obsess over. Telling someone to relax when they’re experiencing a highly stressful time is counter-productive, even if your intentions are sound. 

I know all the advice might seem like a potential minefield for someone who just wants to be supportive. So, what should you say to a couple experiencing infertility? My advice is to do less talking and more listening. A simple, “I’m here for you if you ever want to talk.”

Or, if you don’t know the couple well, a simple “We’ll be thinking of you” can do wonders.

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