How To Be Sensitive To Your Loved One's Fertility Issues When You're Growing Your Family

Fertility can be an incredibly difficult topic to navigate. According to the American Psychiatric Association, one in eight couples has trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. Some may experience primary infertility, which is when someone has never been pregnant and is unable to after 12 months of trying. Others may experience secondary infertility, which occurs when someone who has been pregnant before is now unable to conceive again, per MedlinePlus. Whether your loved one is experiencing primary or secondary infertility, the emotional fallout that occurs can be devastating. 


If you're creating a family of your own, it can be hard to openly discuss your excitement with family and friends who've struggled with their own fertility. We want you to navigate this journey with compassion, empathy, and sensitivity so that you can celebrate your own growing family without unintentionally diminishing your loved ones' experiences.

Couples going through infertility may experience feelings of anger, sadness, grief, and shame when experiencing fertility issues. These feelings are complicated, intense, and often isolating. When another couple is able to conceive a child, it may bring out feelings of anger and envy for those who are unable to. If you're growing a family of your own, there are ways to discuss and celebrate your news in a sensitive manner.


Don't overshare or give advice

It's human nature to want to share all your pregnancy details, symptoms, and ultrasound photos when you're feeling so excited about your big news. But keep these conversations for friends and loved ones who already have children — they'll be happy to talk about pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood with you and will also be better equipped to answer any questions you may have. Limit any oversharing with loved ones who are infertile and be mindful about how much you talk about your pregnancy with them.


Additionally, while it's normal to want to offer advice when you feel equipped to solve a problem — especially if you've experienced infertility yourself — giving advice is not helpful or even warranted when you're talking with a friend who is struggling with infertility. Remember your role is that of a compassionate friend, not a medical professional. According to Grace Bastidas, editor-in-chief of Parents magazine, "If a friend or a relative tells you they're having a tough time conceiving, try not to minimize it by saying, 'Just try to relax,'" she explained to CNN. "That's really not helpful." 

Your best bet is to avoid details or offering any kind of advice. Focus on your own individual journey with the knowledge that everyone else's is different. If the friend you're sharing with wants to hear more information than you've offered, they'll ask. 


Let them know before sharing on social media

Since social media is how we share big news with the world, it may be best to give your friend a heads-up before posting online. It's important to emphasize that you value your relationship with them above the excitement of posting big news online — after all, your personal relationships will be essential to your growing family. Telling your friend before posting might also give them the chance to log off, which will prevent the potential mental strain of reading and rereading the post and comments that follow. 


Your friend will likely be grateful that you took the time to give them a heads-up, and you may also be surprised by how they respond to the celebratory event. Additionally, you may want to avoid any group-setting announcements as well. According to Arielle Bogorad, vice president at fertility company Progyny, "I would want my friends to tell me on the phone or face-to-face but avoid telling [me] in a group setting," she explained to HuffPost. "I think they can preface it by saying, 'I have some good news and some hard news.'"

Text vs. phone call

While many people prefer a phone call to receive big news, feelings can be complicated for a friend who's infertile when it comes to pregnancy. Some may choose a phone call based on their friend's typical preference, but a text allows the person on the receiving end to grieve, process, and respond when they're ready. Texting also gives you space to think about how you want to share the news, as you can put a message through several rounds of edits.


When a user on Reddit asked how best to handle this situation, one Redditor shared their experience saying, "I've been the friend dealing with infertility in this scenario, and I think my friend did an amazing job at telling me," they explained. "She texted me, 'I wanted to let you know that I'm pregnant...No need to respond either way, but [I] love you and just wanted to let you know.'" In addition to how you share the news, it may be best not to bring up infertility unless it's by the person who's infertile.

Ask them if there's anything you can do to help

Without being overly emotional when addressing a friend's infertility, asking how you can be directly or indirectly helpful may help you and your friend navigate this journey. For example, saying "I know this might be tough for you to talk about, so is there any way I can be more helpful? I'm definitely willing to avoid this topic or speak more sensitively about it. Let me know how I can be here for you in the best way." Although your friends aren't therapists and you shouldn't treat them as such, handing the reins over can help them feel more in control and capable of expressing their boundaries. 


Asking this question also gives your friend a chance to lay out any expectations or demands they have when discussing your pregnancy, like not attending social events related to your pregnancy or only updating them on big news (conception, labor, delivery, etc.). Make sure to be open and understanding, even if the situation is hard not to share with them. It's likely that your friend wants to celebrate you, but in a manner that does not overwhelm them or remind them of their own infertility. 

If enough time has passed, invite them to be a part of your fertility journey

One of the best parts of pregnancy can be inviting your loved ones to share in the journey. If a couple you know has processed and grieved their own fertility journey, inviting them to be a part of your own may possibly be a welcomed invitation. From baby showers to christenings to gender reveals, there are many celebratory events that your loved ones can be a part of — but this is entirely dependent on their feelings and requires open communication between you both. If your loved one is eager to share in your journey, including them in whatever events they wish to be a part of can create a sense of belonging and bring a familial and solace-type feeling. 


Remember, however, that it's okay if these invites are rejected. "You should invite your good friends to any such celebration, but don't be offended if they choose not to come," Elizabeth Angell, editor-in-chief of Romper, a website for millennial moms, told CNN. "Give them the space to grieve and reassure them that you're there for them when they're ready to talk about it." While these events can offer a space to grieve and celebrate at once, some people may not need or want that — and that's okay.