Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Things you shouldn't say to someone going through infertility

Talking about conceiving can be a fun topic. It's an exciting time for a lot of people. But I'm sitting here after 10 months, 6 cycles (in my 3rd medicated cycle) and I have to say, it's not fun anymore. It stopped being exciting after my miscarriage. It just got more stressful. I have people that ask me all the time, strangers included, when we're going to have another baby. I don't know why so many people think it's okay to bring up my womb, but they do. I know everyone means well, but seriously? That's pretty freaking personal. It grates on me. It doesn't just bother me because I find it incredibly nosy, it bothers me because I know there are couples out there that have been trying to get pregnant WAY longer than we have, and still hear insensitive things regularly. People who are miserable and exhausting every option.

So, I took to the interwebs to find out what other women have been told or asked. I'm a member of an online forum for women with diagnosed issues that cause infertility. It's been tremendously helpful to see other experiences from women doing the same surgeries, tests, and treatments as myself. I started a topic to find out what these women hear from friends, family, and strangers on a regular basis, about their fertility. I got about 40 responses.

(One thing that I've noticed in the last year is a lot of women dealing with infertility are a bit bitter. So some of this probably sounds petty. But you know what? They have a pretty good reason to feel that way. Infertility sucks.)

So, I compiled a list. Things you should never say to someone going through infertility. If you don't want to read the whole list, skip to the bottom because I also included what you SHOULD say to these couples.

*This doesn't apply to everyone. But it's a pretty dang good start.

**For the record, I'm not really bitter about my health issues at this point. That's subject to change though. But at this point I don't mind good friends, occasionally a close family member, or women that have been down this road saying something. I also don't mind being ASKED about the treatments & what has led up to this point. I'm pretty open. If you DO have something you want to ask, just do it! I won't bite your head off. Unless you're asking me something on this list. Don't do that. :)

***Remember that there are most likely things in your life that you hate people asking personal questions about, too. Your health, love life, financial status...there's probably something that would bother you.

Things you shouldn't say to someone going through infertility

1. "Have you tried _______?"

That blank can be anything. Temperature and cervical mucous tracking, elevating hips after sex, clomid, femara, food recommendations, supplements, oils, acupuncture. I've been on this journey for less than a year & I've heard every. single. one. I'll let you in on a little secret. There's no one in this world (except MAYBE a fertility specialist) that knows more about things to assist fertility than a woman trying to conceive. Seriously, we have done our research. 

2. "Maybe if you gained/lost weight." 

Nope nope nope. Just stop. It's not okay to say this to any human being unless you are their doctor (not even a parent). I have PCOS, which is common in women who are under and overweight. But I've had it for 10 years, & for 8 of those years, I wasn't even kind of overweight. Yes, there is a lot of truth to gaining or losing weight, but no matter how true it is, it's never, ever, ever okay to say.

3. "Are you still trying?" 

Yep, still sexually active. Thanks.

4. "You are so young, you have plenty of time." 

This one makes me really angry. My 3rd doctor said it to me. It doesn't matter how young you are. If you're not ovulating, you can't get pregnant. Pretty simple. A lot of fertility problems don't have age limits. 

5. "You just need to relax. Take a vacation."

Relaxing won't magically create the right hormones or get rid of endometriosis. It doesn't work that way. Sure, I may need to relax, but it's not going to get me pregnant. But if you know of some magical fertility healing waters, please tell me. I know a lot of women that would really like that information!

6. "I hope you don't have more than one!" 

Are you kidding? A lot of people want more than one kid and they don't want to do fertility more than once. So you know what some people want? Twins. I'm sure it's miserable and we'd all lose our minds, but we'd be done. & eventually it would all be worth it. Most couples would be happy with any number of babies they had. Have you seen how happy that couple in Utah that conceived quads was? All of these couples would be that thrilled. 

7. "Have you considered adoption?" 

Do you have money to spare for people? Cause I don't know if you know this, but adoption is pretty stinking expensive. So is IVF. So unless you're willing to donate, don't mention it.

8. "At least you have one." 

I know this. I swear I do. I remind myself of it all the time. But you know what? Secondary infertility still sucks. We want to give our only child a sibling more than anything and people saying this makes us feel guilty. We know it could be way worse. But don't make us feel bad because someone else is going through something worse. We're struggling in a different way. Which ties perfectly into the next one...

9. "Don't you want to give your child a sibling?" 

YES! Thanks. You don't have to give me a speech about how important siblings are. I am aware & I'm trying. But sometimes kids don't get siblings. Sometimes it doesn't work. Don't make me feel guilty for that.

10. "You haven't even been trying that long." 

When I went to a doctor, we had only tried one cycle. But I went because I had already been diagnosed with PCOS which would probably effect my fertility. And I hadn't had a period in THREE YEARS. Before I got pregnant I had a period every 2-6 months. So, it was pretty justified when I went in since I wasn't ovulating. It doesn't matter how long you've been trying. Every month that goes by gets a little more disappointing when you pee on a stick and still see a stark white negative test. You start losing hope fast.

11. "You had a miscarriage? At least you can get pregnant!" 

Sorry but there's nothing you can say to make someone feel better about a miscarriage. I've heard this from a lot of people and it bugs me every single time. You know why my last miscarriage happened? Because at about 6 weeks my body stopped making the hormone it needed to support an early pregnancy. It just didn't want to make it anymore. It wasn't some kind of abnormality. The baby would've been fine if my body had just worked properly. But it didn't. So no. It doesn't make me feel better that I can get pregnant. That terrifies me even more because I know that if I'm not on supplements that I have to stuff up...there, I will probably lose another pregnancy. I've already lost 2 and I'm not eager to add more.

12. "At least it was an early miscarriage." 

I'm absolutely positive that the further in to pregnancy you get, the more painful, emotionally and physically, a miscarriage is. But it doesn't mean that an early miscarriage isn't painful. So just don't say this to people. They lost a pregnancy and that's hard.

13. "Stop trying and it'll happen." 

You know, if your parts aren't working, stopping efforts to get pregnant isn't going to make them work. It just doesn't work that way.

14. "Everything happens for a reason."

I understand the appeal of saying this. It covers a lot and seems inspirational. But it isn't. When you're in the middle of treatments, dealing with miscarriages, blocked fallopian tubes, or whatever else is thrown at you, it's really hard to see the reason for it. And telling someone there's a reason for it just doesn't help.

15. "God has a plan for you."

Okay, I'm a big believer in God having a plan & it being His timing. And this probably sounds super bitter, but I don't like hearing it from most people. I don't like to think that God gave me my miscarriage. Fertility will make a lot of people struggle with their faith. It's hard when you're going through your 4th miscarriage to think that God has given you this trial. It's kind of a painful reminder when people tell you it's all part of a plan. Because for some people, that plan ends with failed fertility treatments and a lot of money down the drain.

16. "You should get a dog."

What?!? People say this and are actually serious. I've actually heard it from 3 different women. I love my dog, but that is not even kind of the same thing as having a baby. Don't even say this as a joke.

17. "It'll all be worth it when you have your baby."

This is true. It will be. People know that, which is why they're willing to go through it. But when you're getting fertility treatments, there's a lot of needles, & a lot of things getting shoved where they don't belong. Do you know what a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test is? Unpleasant. Some women give themselves shots every single day. So yes, if the treatments work, it's definitely worth it. But again, for some people it won't work. Some people will just go through this pain & suffering for years & never have any of it work.

18. "Have a lot of sex!"

Really? Couples have never considered that maybe they should be having sex to get pregnant. This is brand new information!!!! You know what loses it's fun factor when you've been trying for a long long time? Sex.

What you SHOULD say to someone going through infertility

"I'm sorry. That really sucks." 

Any version of that works well. That's terrible, that must be really hard... you have options. I asked these women what they would prefer people to say, & this was overwhelmingly the response they wanted & needed most. This & a hug.

We know most people mean well when they say these things. People are trying to uplift, or try to fix the situation. But really, it's way more helpful when someone can just commiserate with you. So please, don't be offended by this. Infertility is a really hard thing to go through. It can be heart breaking for a lot of people. Miscarriages, cysts, missing tubes, low sperm counts... it's deeply personal. Be sensitive to that.

That's all. :)


  1. Wow. I love this post! I haven't had any trouble with fertility so far--just had my first baby boy a few months ago. But I definitely know some people who have struggled with it and I never know what to say! Thanks for this post!

    I'm doing a little link love post on my blog on Friday and I want to feature this post on it. Hope it helps bring in some traffic for you! :)

    My Peanut Butter Problem

  2. Hey, thanks for stopping by my blog! That's so crazy that we know each other! I totally recognize you now that you point it out! :) It really is such a small world sometimes.