Tips for Talking About Infertility with Friends and Family
People didn’t use to talk about fertility problems. It wasn’t a topic to be discussed with family or friends. Instead, infertility was something that couples dealt with in private.
Thankfully, that has changed. Today, people are more willing to talk about their experiences and are therefore normalizing infertility and fertility treatment. What was once so isolating and lonely has finally been revealed as something much more commonplace then most people had previously realized. It is no longer uncommon for someone to know a couple who is going through IVF or infertility treatment, simply because more people are openly sharing their infertility treatment or IVF stories.
Even though it is becoming more common to hear about infertility, some couples are still hesitant to talk about their infertility and IVF journey, even with their family or friends. Why? There are any number of reasons why couples wish to not openly discuss it. Some fear judgment, others feel uncomfortable talking about such a personal topic, and in some cases, the couple simply lacks knowledge about infertility.
If you are debating whether or not to tell friends and family about your fertility struggles, these 6 tips may make it a little easier on you:
1. Have a plan.
You are tackling infertility as a couple. You should both agree on whom to tell what. He may not feel comfortable with you talking about his low sperm count, or she may not want him to talk to your great Aunt about her treatment. Knowing what you each feel comfortable with is really important! Be respectful to your partner by honoring your agreements.
If you are going through treatment without a partner, knowing what you feel comfortable disclosing is important.
2. Pick the right time.
When to have the conversation about your infertility is just as important as knowing what to say. Find a time when you aren’t rushed. Allot time for an extended conversation. Be kind to yourself and your audience. Not everyone is ready to talk about infertility and not every person reacts the same.
3. Consider who you are talking to.
Think about your relationship with each person you plan to tell (or not tell!). You don’t need to tell everyone everything because different people in your life will react to your news in different ways. Some people will need just the basics, while others are in your circle of trusted friends and family and are ready for details. Follow your instinct. You will know when you feel comfortable opening up and discussing more. There is nothing wrong with customizing your approach and conversation for each person you allow into your infertility journey.
Know that your approach may change as time goes on. A friend you thought to be sympathetic and a good listener may turn out not to be. It may just be that your elderly grandmother is way more understanding than you thought she ever would be.
4. Set boundaries.
As you are going through treatment, you may decide that you don’t want to share details about your cycle until you know the outcome and that’s OK! You can always opt to temporarily skip family gatherings like baby showers. Letting people know your boundaries upfront can help them respect your wishes. In turn, you will feel much better because you were clear in communicating what is OK to you and what isn’t.
5. Ask for support.
When your friends and family are sympathetic to your infertility, they typically want to be supportive and help you however they can. Be upfront and specific about how they can do so. Do you need help with meals after your egg retrieval or embryo transfer? Do you need someone to go for a walk with you after a doctor visit?
6. Be willing to inform.
People in your circle of trust may not know anything about infertility. What’s worse, they may want to share old-wife tales and stereotypes to put you (and themselves) at ease. Be ready to explain that infertility is not easily fixed by just “relaxing” or that “adopting” cannot help you conceive. Be willing to explain the details of what is involved in the infertility treatment. Busting infertility myths and understanding common infertility problems can help your loved ones support you better.
Infertility diagnosis and treatment can be challenging on its own. Having support from friends and family can give you the much-needed strength for your journey. If you need additional support navigating infertility, consider speaking with a reproductive psychologist or finding a support group. You don’t have to be alone in this if you don’t want to.