Talking About Infertility (Or Not) with Family and Friends

You and Your Partner Decide

Some of the biggest stressors when you’re trying to conceive are the well-meant (for the most part) comments of family and friends.  Infertility treatments can be very stressful.  You may find you’re more irritable than before, and the thoughtless questions and observations rub you the wrong way.  Most people really aren’t out to hurt your feelings or anger you. Many of the hurtful statements come from the ignorance of others about your circumstances or about infertility. You may have to deal with at least two types of situations:  People who think you’re deliberately postponing childbirth or don’t want to have children (and don’t know you’re infertile), and those who know you’re trying to conceive but believe things which are just wrong (“it’s all in your head, just relax”).  Here are some thoughts on communicating your experience and feelings so you can get the support you need.

Get on the Same Page with Your Partner

You and your partner must decide who you want to share your story with, and how much you want to share.  If one of you wants to tell the world and put it on social media, and the other one wants to be completely private, agree on a compromise.  Do think seriously about how much and how often you want to discuss your infertility struggle.  Whose support can you really count on? Will it stress you out more if people ask you daily about what’s going on?  Maybe you just tell close family and your best friends, and don’t share on your social media accounts.  Maybe you join online support groups.  You both need to agree and manage your message accordingly.

Decide on Your Message

Once you’ve agreed who to tell, the next step is to prepare some messages in advance.  Decide how much detail you want to give, and explain how they can support you.  “We’re working on having a baby, and we seem to be having a problem,” is one way to start the discussion.  It may help to explain that infertility is a very common medical condition and that over 7 million people in the U.S. suffer from it.   If you want, you can tell them that you’re in treatment as a couple, and that you’d prefer not to be asked about specific treatments or results.   Here are some useful scenarios and responses from RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association.

Deflection and Humor Can Be Your Friends

What if you really don’t want to talk about your fertility treatment, or someone that you don’t want to share it with says something snarky?  Just remember, you don’t have to share your business if you don’t want to!  If someone says, “When are you two going to have a baby?” you can respond with humor (“well, we’re certainly having fun working on it”) or just say “we hope to start a family soon,” and ask them about something in their life (“How is your son doing in school?” “How are your grandkids?”)  If they are too insensitive to move on and let the topic go, then don’t hesitate to be firm:  “That’s a really personal topic, and I don’t really want to discuss it with you/right now.”

“Just Relax” and Other Nonsense

The amount of misinformation on infertility is just staggering.  Infertility is not in your head, and advice like “just relax” or “adopt, and then you’ll get pregnant” can be infuriating.  If you’re undergoing fertility treatment, you can respond, “We’re seeing a fertility expert, and our problems have medical causes that she is treating.”  If you feel comfortable sharing about your diagnosis and treatment, it can become a teachable moment.  Most people aren’t insensitive, just ignorant!

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