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5 Things Not to Say to People Struggling with Infertility

Navigating the delicate realm of infertility is a challenging journey filled with emotional turbulence and profound longing. While being a parent is often celebrated as a joyous blessing, it’s important to recognize that for those struggling to conceive, the journey can be an arduous one, overshadowed by heartache and frustration. The well-intentioned remarks that abound in conversations about parenthood can unintentionally inflict pain on those facing fertility challenges.

The struggle to conceive encompasses much more than the mere desire for a child. It becomes a deeply personal battle that impacts every facet of one’s being. Each failed attempt can chip away at self-esteem, leaving individuals questioning their worth and value. For women, it can shake the foundations of their femininity and challenge their perception of themselves as mothers. Similarly, men may grapple with doubts about their masculinity and their ability to fulfill their role as fathers. The pursuit of parenthood becomes intertwined with personal happiness and the search for purpose in life, intensifying the weight of each passing month.

Empathy can be elusive for those who haven’t experienced the anguish of infertility firsthand. If someone close to you, be it a friend, colleague, or loved one, is embroiled in this struggle, it is crucial to gain insights and understand how to support them in the most compassionate way possible. This means learning how to avoid inadvertently causing discomfort or uttering cringe-worthy remarks that can deeply upset them.

It’s important to remember that the insensitive comments often unleashed in conversations surrounding infertility are rarely intended to inflict harm. Rather, they stem from a place of ignorance and a sincere desire to provide comfort or alleviate the tension. However, the impact of these well-meaning but misguided words can be far-reaching, compounding the emotional burden already borne by those facing fertility challenges.

In light of this, it is crucial to cultivate a heightened awareness and sensitivity when discussing matters of parenthood with individuals struggling to conceive. By doing so, we can foster a culture of support, compassion, and understanding, ensuring that our words become a source of solace rather than additional anguish.

5 things never to say to someone struggling with infertility


5 things that you should never say to somebody struggling with infertility:

  1. You Can Always Do IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)

It’s not as simple as you may think. A lot of people see in vitro fertilization (IVF) as a magical cure for infertility, which is a misconception, but the truth is that not everyone can afford it. It is a very expensive treatment and rarely fully covered by insurance. Either way, the costs of one treatment cycle can be somewhere between $12,000 and $25,000, and most of the time it won’t succeed from the first attempt. Also, in the case of sperm, donor eggs, embryos, or even surrogates, the costs can become significantly more expensive, hitting around $72,642. If you decide to try this option, then make sure to choose a professional clinic that fits your needs and understands your struggle.

The phrase “You can always do IVF (In Vitro Fertilization)” is a common response that people often offer as a potential solution to those facing infertility. While it may be well-intentioned, it is crucial to understand why this remark can be deeply hurtful and insensitive.

  1. Oversimplifies the Complexity: Infertility is a multifaceted issue, and suggesting IVF as a quick fix oversimplifies the challenges and complexities involved. IVF is not a guaranteed solution, and it can be emotionally, physically, and financially demanding. It may not be a viable option for everyone due to various factors such as medical conditions, personal beliefs, or financial constraints.
  2. Disregards Personal Circumstances: Every person’s journey with infertility is unique, and there may be a multitude of reasons why IVF might not be the right choice for someone. It is important to respect and acknowledge their individual circumstances, beliefs, and preferences rather than assuming that IVF is the only path they should pursue.
  3. Implies Blame or Failure: When someone struggling with infertility hears the suggestion of IVF, it can inadvertently imply that they have not done enough or have failed in their efforts to conceive naturally. This can intensify feelings of guilt, shame, and inadequacy, adding to the emotional burden they are already carrying.
  4. Ignores Emotional Impact: Infertility immensely affects an individual’s emotional well-being. Suggesting a medical procedure like IVF without considering the emotional journey they are going through can undermine their feelings and emotions. It is important to offer support, empathy, and understanding rather than proposing solutions that may overlook their emotional needs.
  5. Assumes Access and Affordability: IVF is a costly procedure, and not everyone has access to the necessary resources or insurance coverage to pursue it. By casually suggesting IVF, one may unknowingly highlight the financial disparities and create additional stress for individuals who are already grappling with the financial strain of infertility treatments.

Instead of offering simplistic solutions, listening attentively, validating their emotions, and offering support without judgment is more helpful. Showing empathy and understanding can go a long way in providing comfort to those struggling with infertility, acknowledging the complexity of their experience, and letting them know they are not alone in their journey.

  1. Why Don’t You Adopt?

Adoption can be a wonderful option for any couple and a huge blessing for an orphan in need of a loving family. But that is a decision that people need to make on their own. There is a possibility that they might have thought about adoption as a backup plan already, but the reality is that the actual process is not as simple as one might think. Adoption is full of stress, grief, and agonizing waits. Not only that it puts a lot of pressure on the relationship, but it can be financially straining as well. The harsh reality is that not everyone who wants to adopt will pass the screening process. Even if so, it still doesn’t replace having a biological child, even if that is a wonderful and selfless way to build a family.

Bringing up the suggestion of adoption to someone struggling with infertility, by saying “Why don’t you adopt?” can be deeply hurtful and insensitive. It is important to recognize the reasons why this statement should be avoided in order to offer support and understanding to individuals facing infertility.

  1. Undermines Emotional Complexity: Infertility is a complex and deeply personal journey that encompasses a range of emotions, including grief, loss, and a longing for a biological connection to a child. By suggesting adoption, it can trivialize or disregard the intense emotional impact of infertility and the desire to experience pregnancy and biological parenthood.
  2. Oversimplifies Adoption Process: Adoption is a significant and intricate process that involves legal, financial, and emotional considerations. It is not a decision to be taken lightly or as a simple alternative to biological conception. Suggesting adoption without recognizing the complexities involved can dismiss the emotional and logistical challenges that individuals or couples may face in pursuing adoption.
  3. Implies a “Fix” for Infertility: The suggestion to adopt can unintentionally imply that adoption is the solution to infertility, as if it erases the pain or longing for biological parenthood. This can invalidate the emotions and experiences of those struggling with infertility, making them feel as though their desire for a biological child is irrelevant or unimportant.
  4. Assumes Adoption is Easy: Adoption is a deeply personal choice, and it may not be the right path for everyone. It requires careful consideration, research, and a willingness to navigate the unique challenges that come with the adoption process. Assuming that adoption is a straightforward or easy solution oversimplifies the reality and can be dismissive of the individual’s personal circumstances and preferences.
  5. Disregards Timing and Personal Choices: Timing and personal choices play a significant role in the decision-making process for individuals or couples facing infertility. Suggesting adoption may overlook their specific circumstances, such as ongoing medical treatments, financial considerations, or the need for emotional healing before exploring alternative paths to parenthood.

Instead of proposing adoption as a quick fix, it is essential to approach conversations about infertility with sensitivity and empathy. Listening, validating their emotions, and offering support without judgment are more appropriate ways to provide comfort. Recognizing and respecting their unique journey and choices can help create a safe and understanding environment for those facing infertility.

  1. The Universe Has Other Plans for You

That is rude! While many people might agree that there is a larger plan for all of us, it doesn’t necessarily encompass everybody’s beliefs, religion, or point of view. More than that, it can come out as insensitive and should never be considered a relevant act of consolation.

Making the statement, “The Universe has other plans for you,” to someone struggling with infertility can be deeply hurtful and dismissive of their emotions and experiences. It is crucial to understand why this phrase should be avoided in order to provide genuine support and empathy to individuals facing infertility.

  1. Minimizes and Invalidates Feelings: Infertility is a challenging and emotionally charged experience. By attributing the situation to “the Universe” or some higher power, it can trivialize the pain, grief, and longing that individuals or couples may be going through. It diminishes their feelings and suggests that their struggles are inconsequential in the grand scheme of things.
  2. Implies a Lack of Control: The statement “The Universe has other plans for you” can imply that the person struggling with infertility has no control over their own life or reproductive journey. This can be disempowering and reinforce feelings of helplessness and frustration. It is important to recognize that individuals have agency over their own choices and emotions, and implying otherwise can be insensitive.
  3. Disregards Personal Beliefs and Spirituality: Infertility is a deeply personal experience that intersects with individuals’ beliefs, spirituality, and values. Assuming a universal plan dismisses the diversity of perspectives and personal faith systems. It is essential to respect and acknowledge the unique beliefs and spiritual interpretations of those facing infertility, rather than imposing a one-size-fits-all explanation.
  4. Oversimplifies a Complex Situation: Infertility is a complex medical, emotional, and relational issue. Reducing it to a vague notion of “the Universe’s plan” oversimplifies the multifaceted challenges that individuals or couples may be encountering. It fails to recognize the complexity of fertility treatments, medical conditions, and the various factors that can contribute to infertility.
  5. Lacks Empathy and Understanding: Infertility can be an isolating and emotionally painful experience. Responding with a statement that suggests a higher purpose or fate can come across as dismissive and lacking in empathy. It is important to offer genuine support, understanding, and validation for the emotions and struggles that individuals are facing, rather than relying on abstract notions or platitudes.

Instead of resorting to vague explanations or attributing the situation to external forces, it is more helpful to listen actively, validate their feelings, and offer empathy. Showing understanding and compassion can create a safe space for individuals to share their experiences, allowing for a more meaningful and supportive connection.

  1. So, Whose Fault Is It?

Just because a couple has confided in you about their very personal infertility issue, that does not mean that they might be open to sharing every detail of their struggle with you. Try to treat the topic with kindness and compassion and don’t let your curiosity trump your respect. It is a delicate subject, after all.

Asking the question, “So, whose fault is it?” in the context of infertility is highly insensitive, hurtful, and should be avoided at all costs.

Here are the reasons why this question should never be posed to someone struggling with infertility:

  1. Blames and Shames: Infertility is a complex medical condition that can have various causes, often unrelated to individual fault or blame. Asking whose fault it is implies that someone must be responsible, leading to unnecessary guilt, self-blame, and feelings of inadequacy. Infertility is not a matter of fault, but rather a difficult circumstance that individuals face.
  2. Ignores the Complexity of Infertility: Infertility is rarely a result of a single cause or factor. It can be influenced by a range of medical, genetic, hormonal, or lifestyle factors that may affect both partners. Focusing on fault oversimplifies the intricate nature of infertility, disregarding the medical complexities involved.
  3. Strains Relationships: Asking about fault places an unnecessary burden on relationships, potentially creating tension, blame, and resentment between partners. Infertility already puts immense strain on couples, and introducing the notion of fault can further damage their emotional connection and support for one another.
  4. Disregards Emotional Well-being: Infertility often brings emotional pain, grief, and stress. By asking about fault, it dismisses the emotional toll and invalidates the person’s feelings. It is important to provide empathy, understanding, and support rather than engaging in a blame game that only exacerbates their emotional distress.
  5. Neglects Privacy and Personal Boundaries: Infertility is a deeply personal and private matter. Inquiring about fault invades personal boundaries and may force individuals or couples to disclose sensitive medical information they may not be comfortable sharing. Respecting their privacy and allowing them to share what they feel comfortable with is crucial.

Instead of fixating on blame, it is essential to approach discussions about infertility with empathy, sensitivity, and support. Offer a listening ear, validate their emotions, and express your willingness to support them without casting judgment or questioning fault. Infertility is a challenging journey, and providing understanding and compassion can make a significant difference in their well-being and the strength of your relationship with them.

  1. Don’t Give up and the Rest Will Follow

While this statement might sound reassuring and comforting, it isn’t. It is nice to cherish hope above all and inspire positivity in others, but it can be a burden and heartache for somebody that hopes for things to work out eventually. And the truth is they might not. Sometimes hope, praying or faith in God is not what someone who is trying to conceive needs. When everything else fails, and all we are left is just us, the best thing that we can do is know when to stop and make peace with ourselves. Infertility is a delicate subject, no matter how close you are to the ones struggling. People react differently to pain. The most considerate and sympathetic thing to do is always treat the matter with kindness, respect, empathy, and understanding. Appreciate their discretion and don’t forget to let them know that you are there for them, even if that only means giving them a hug or baking them a warm pie.

While the phrase “Don’t give up and the rest will follow” may seem like an encouraging statement, it is important to understand why it can be inappropriate and insensitive to say this to someone struggling with infertility:

  1. Oversimplifies the Situation: Infertility is a complex medical condition that often requires professional assistance and specialized treatments. Merely telling someone not to give up oversimplifies the challenges they face and disregards the potential need for medical interventions or alternative paths to parenthood.
  2. Invalidates Their Struggles: Infertility is often a long and emotionally draining journey. By suggesting that all they need to do is persevere and everything will work out, it invalidates their pain, grief, and the complexity of their experiences. It fails to acknowledge the rollercoaster of emotions, disappointments, and difficult decisions they have already encountered.
  3. Ignores Individual Circumstances: Each person’s fertility journey is unique, with a myriad of factors influencing their options and decisions. The statement “the rest will follow” assumes a linear path to parenthood and neglects to consider personal circumstances such as medical history, financial limitations, or other challenges that may impact the decision-making process.
  4. May Imply False Hope: Infertility treatments do not have a guaranteed outcome. Assuring someone that success will follow if they simply persist can create false hope and unrealistic expectations. It is important to acknowledge the uncertainties and complexities of the infertility journey and support individuals in making informed decisions based on their own circumstances.
  5. Adds Pressure and Burden: The pressure to not give up can place additional strain on individuals already grappling with the emotional and physical toll of infertility. It may lead to feelings of guilt or failure if they do decide to explore alternative paths or take a break from treatments. Each person’s decision to continue or pause their fertility journey should be respected and supported.

Instead of using blanket statements, it is more helpful to offer empathy, understanding, and a listening ear. Validate their emotions, assure them that their feelings are valid, and let them know that you are there to support them, regardless of the choices they make. By providing a non-judgmental space, you can be a source of comfort and encouragement as they navigate the challenges of infertility.

Final Thoughts

Navigating conversations around infertility requires sensitivity, empathy, and an understanding of the complexities involved. It is crucial to recognize that infertility is not just a physical condition but also an emotional journey filled with hopes, dreams, and profound challenges.

When engaging with someone struggling with infertility, it is essential to prioritize active listening, validating their emotions, and offering support without judgment. Avoiding dismissive remarks, blame, oversimplification, or unsolicited advice is key to fostering a supportive and compassionate environment.

Remember that infertility affects individuals differently, and their experiences may vary greatly. Respecting their privacy, personal choices, and beliefs is vital. By showing empathy and understanding, you can provide solace and be a source of strength during their infertility journey.

Ultimately, approaching conversations about infertility with kindness, respect, and sensitivity can make a significant difference in supporting those facing this challenging path.

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