For many couples, falling pregnant doesn’t come easily – and that can be a shock. While the rest of their friendship circle starts to expand their families, those struggling to conceive can feel left behind when it doesn’t happen right away. It’s a complex situation that comes with a lot of grief, sadness and fear – which makes it even more important for your loved one to have good people around them.
If you have a friend who is going through infertility, it can be a really lonely and isolating time for them. Remember to always think before you speak and try to put yourself in their shoes. What would you find helpful if you were struggling to fall pregnant? What would you find hurtful?
Don’t put pressure on your friend to open up to you, either. When they’re ready to talk, all you have to do is listen and be guided by them. If they want to change the subject, that’s OK too.
You may feel out of your depth, especially if you’ve never experienced infertility yourself. So here are five ways you can support your friend through infertility.
1. You just need to listen, not problem solve
When it comes to getting pregnant, everyone seems to have a hot tip or an old wive’s tale that worked for their sister, cousin or aunt. But relaying this second-hand information as gospel can actually be really unhelpful (and trust us, they’ve probably tried it all!)
Instead, leave the problem solving to the medical professionals. All you have to do is listen, listen and listen some more when and if they are ready to talk about their fertility struggles.
2. Offer to connect them with someone who has been through fertility struggles
If you haven’t been through infertility yourself, it can be really hard to know exactly what to say. But if you have a good friend or family member who has walked that path, linking them up to your friend could be a game-changer.
You could try asking them: “My sister just went through IVF. Do you want to speak to her?” You might not have the words of wisdom to share yourself but you can play support person matchmaker.
3. Don’t forget to check in with their partner
When a couple is in the depths of infertility, the partner can often be overlooked – but may be struggling just as much. Letting them know you’re there for them too can make a huge difference. Trying to fall pregnant can also put a huge strain on relationships so it’s important to show up and support both people in the relationship.
4. Educate yourself on the IVF process
If your friend is turning to IVF to have a baby, a little research goes a long way. Getting your head around the general IVF process will arm you with the right tools to ask the right questions.
From knowing about ovulation stimulation, egg retrieval and of course, the dreaded two-week wait – brushing up on your knowledge shows your friend just how much you care. Sending a good luck text on embryo transfer day can truly make their day!
5. Let them know it’s OK to be selfish and they can do whatever they need to do to protect themselves
When you can’t get pregnant, it can feel like suddenly your whole social calendar is booked up with baby showers, christenings and birthday parties. Let your friend know it’s more than OK if they don’t want to attend these events, which can often be triggering.
However, it’s equally as important to keep them in the loop and continue to invite them. Don’t leave them out just because they’re not a parent yet. Always invite them and let them choose. Remember not to be offended if they don’t want to come to a kids’ event, it’s not personal, they’re simply looking out for themself and their mental health.
You can also play a huge part in keeping them busy with fun activities to look forward to. Whether it’s heading out for a walk, surprising them with a massage or taking them out for dinner – keeping their mind off things can be just as helpful as letting them know you’re available to talk.
If your friend is ready to talk to you about their fertility struggles, this means they really trust you. Make sure you honour that and keep whatever they tell you absolutely confidential.
If you’re unsure how you can help them, ask them exactly what they need from you as they navigate this period of their life. And remember, knowledge is power. The more you know around infertility, the more informed you’ll be.