Supporting a friend challenged by infertility

One of the biggest challenges when dealing with infertility is whether to tell friends or family. While friends and family can lend some support, it is only if they have information that their loved one is struggling. While it may not be possible to give perfect support, they can try to work out just how much should they tell and who precisely should they open up to? Are there things maybe they shouldn’t share?

There are some possible pitfalls to sharing, however. You may not always know how to react to delicate information like this. It isn’t that you don’t want to be helpful, but that you’re just not sure how. You may give a lot of unwanted advice, or try to give the impression that there’s an easy solution. As a friend, you may become uncomfortable, and feel afraid to talk about pregnancy or new babies. Even families may react with blaming.

For many persons battling infertility, deciding who to tell or not to tell is crucial. How does a person decide exactly who to tell? Don’t feel obligated that you should be told just because you are considered a good friend. It may be that you are not the best person to confide in. Accept that it is best for those challenged to make choices based on what’s best for them, and not based on who they think “deserves” to know.

Considering the pros and cons of telling particular people can help make the best choice. If a friend or family member has confided in you that they are struggling to conceive, it is your responsibility to handle such information with discretion.

Whichever way you took the news, the fact that they’ve told you is a big deal. They trusted you enough to tell you and believe that you’ll be supportive. However, knowing how to actually give that support can be tricky, especially if you’ve never experienced infertility yourself. Nevertheless, there is much that you can do.

To help a friend it is essential to read up on the basics of infertility to be more supportive. You can offer advice and you can offer support in a more understanding fashion. Knowing the basics of IVF, for instance, such information will make it easier for your friend to talk about their cycle. In addition, you won’t react with shock that they need to give themselves numerous injections, for example. You’ll already know that.

Another reason to brush up on the basics is so you don’t find yourself repeating common misconceptions. The fertility challenge is used to hearing myths. However, it is nice if the person they have trusted to offer support—you—aren’t one of those myth-repeating people.

Asking a friend that is battling infertility what they need is often taken for granted. In actual fact, few people actually do so. Perhaps as a result of the embarrassment of not knowing what to do, or perhaps out of concern that it makes you less supportive.

The fact is that people who are struggling often hesitate to ask for what they need, usually because they may not want to be a burden. Sometimes, they are so overwhelmed that asking for help doesn’t even occur to them.

You can ask them what you want to do, or better yet, make a specific offer to help. You can help attend difficult appointments with them, whether they’d like you to just sit in the waiting room or come in and hold their hand.

You can be an exercise mate, for instance, if you know they’re trying to lose weight. Sometimes people need to lose weight to make treatments more effective. It’s much easier to lose weight when you have an ally working out with you. However, you don’t suggest the weight-loss plan, let them bring it up.

There are some things that you should not say to a friend that is coping with infertility. One of the worst things that you can say to such friends is that they aren’t trying hard enough. For instance, it is not every couple that will want IVF, for example. If this applies to your friend, supporting their decision is vital.

Avoid any statement that aims to minimise the pain they are experiencing.

Don’t say things like: “It’s not that bad,” or “At least it’s not cancer,” or “One day you’ll look back and laugh at this.” Suggestions that they should “just relax,” or “just go on vacation, and it’ll happen” may not be often appreciated.

A good way to show support is to get involved in fertility advocacy. Most advocacy efforts come from those directly affected by a disease or issue. The second most active group comes from loved ones who know a person struggling.

You can become a fertility advocate by attending or financially supporting activities in support of fertility challenges such as fertility awareness week. You may accidentally say something hurtful and realise it afterward. If this happens, just quickly apologise, and say you don’t always know the right things to say, so sometimes you say the wrong things.

If you are willing to ask your friend what they need most, and learn from your mistakes, you’re bound to become the most supportive friend your fertility-challenged friend has.

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