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What not to say (when someone is trying to get pregnant)

As someone who struggled to conceive for two years after getting married, I’ve been on the receiving end of a few inappropriate comments, both from strangers and well-meaning loved ones.

Some examples of things I heard from those who didn’t know the ‘right’ thing to say during my infertility journey include:

  • “Enjoy being able to sleep in and travel while you still can.”
  • “You are probably just stressed out. As soon as you stop trying, it will happen.”
  • “Have you tried IVF?” and/or “why don’t you just adopt?”

When you are putting all your time, energy, and thoughts into having a baby, not one of these comments is helpful.

I found that being able to keep a sense of humor when you are dealing with fertility challenges can help save your sanity, so I often responded with my own jokes, but I didn’t always find them funny at the time. However they were intended, the truth is, these comments were hurtful.

Another thing that is not constructive (and that I heard a lot of) is offering home remedies or alternative methods that you think might improve the chance of conception. If someone has been trying to conceive for any amount of time, they have considered all their options including eating foods high in antioxidants and acupuncture.

That said, you shouldn’t be afraid to open your mouth or avoid a loved one who is trying to conceive for fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Here are a few things that you can say and do to help, and they are simpler than you might think:

What can you say? 

The No. 1 thing that you can do to help someone who is trying to get pregnant is to listen and be there for them. Each of the seemingly thoughtless comments I mentioned has an acceptable (even compassionate) alternative that shows that you care about the person and want to help them.

  • Instead of “just enjoy being able to sleep in and travel while you still can,” ask them what would help them out.
  • Instead of “you’re probably just stressed out. As soon as you stop trying, it will happen,” try “have you found any way to release all the stress this is causing you?”
  • Instead of “have you tried IVF?” and “why don’t you just adopt?” try “are you comfortable sharing with me what options you have considered on your infertility journey?”

If you are stumped for things to say, there are a couple tried-and-true phrases that let them know you are there for them.

These can include:

  • Be honest. Tell them you may not know exactly how they feel but you want to be there for them.
  • Ask “do you want to talk about it?” They may want a distraction rather than wallowing in their pain.
  • Say, “I’m sorry to hear that” and/or “I’m sorry you are going through this.” It’s a simple but important statement.
  • “I’m here to listen.”
  • “How can I help?” And accept it if the answer is “you can’t.” 

What can you do? 

If you are still worried about saying the wrong thing, there is some good news - like most things in life, actions speak louder than words.

Some things you can do to support a friend or relative who is struggling with infertility include:

  • Attending appointments with them if they want you to.
  • Educating yourself about infertility (including common misconceptions so you can avoid them).
  • Surprising them in a non-invasive way:
    • Drop off their favorite treat, book, candle, or beverage at their door.
    • Cook a meal and deliver it to them.
    • Offer to watch their older child(ren), if they have them.
  • Take them out to lunch or dinner.
  • Offer to be their exercise or activity buddy. If they are using exercise or a hobby as a way to cope (either physically or mentally), ask if they would like someone to help keep them company and provide motivation.

The bottom line is that you love this person and they are going through a hard time. Treat them with care and compassion, just like you would for any other challenge they face, and admit if you make a mistake or say the wrong thing - you may both even laugh about it later. 

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