What is Infertility?
Infertility is a condition wherein the ability to conceive a child is impaired. Infertility may be diagnosed after a couple has been having well-timed, unprotected sexual intercourse for a full year.
Read more about infertility here, on our Infertility Resource Page.
How To Cope With Infertility:
The pressure - and desire - to create and raise a family is huge. The very idea of being unable to conceive can make people feel as though something is very, very wrong with them. Here are some tips for coping with infertility.
Don't blame yourself. It's hard, especially when it's a known medical issue impacting fertility, not to become angry with yourself. Negative thinking patterns, like blaming yourself for being "too old," "too fat," (or any number of other "issues") can make you feel even worse.
Remember that a fertility issue is a crisis - one of the most difficult challenges a couple can face. Acknowledgment of infertility as a crisis may very well be the key to coping. The feelings of stress, loss, sadness are normal, so do not feel guilty for your feelings.
You're a team - you and your partner - so work together as one.
You may not feel the same emotions at the same time as your partner, which means you should pay attention to each other's emotions. Taking care of each other emotionally to become a united front.
Learn, learn, learn. Staying up-to-date and educated about infertility, your diagnosis, and anything related to your diagnosis. See our infertility page here to learn more about infertility.
Find others who have fertility problems. No one understands IF issues like someone who has gone through - or is going through - IF issues themselves. Feeling less alone during a time when everyone around you is having babies can be a lifesaver.
Set a budget - how much you are willing to pay for IF treatments - and stick with it. Many infertility procedures, such as IVF, are extremely costly. Sit down with your partner and work out a budget for fertility treatments. This may help to reduce anxiety and allow you and your partner to realistically understand how far you are able to go with fertility treatments.
Nix baby-centered activities if you need to. There's no need to torture yourself by going to every baby shower, every first birthday party if it's going to hurt you to sit there. Give yourself the permission to skip these functions if you need to.
Find a balance between hope and realism. Unrealistic expectations may set you up later for a gigantic failure. Infertility is an emotional minefield and while 2/3 of people do end up getting pregnant, 1/3 do not, and must make peace with their lives. Remember: You are not a failure. You are not less of a person, or less valuable, because of your infertility.
How To Help A Friend With Infertility:
Acknowledge the problem. A lot of people tend to gloss over the hard parts of life, leaving white elephants everywhere. Avoiding the infertility issue is not helpful. In fact, it's hurtful.
Infertility treatments are a very lonely time. Do your best to be with your friend, whether it's via email, phone, or in person. Keep calling.
Listen. Really listen when your friend speaks.
Respect your friend's wish to talk about infertility and what she is up against as much or as little as possible. Everyone copes with infertility in their own way, so follow her lead.
Remember that he's more than infertility. Someone who is going through infertility may feel like his life revolves around his diagnosis - so ask him about other things in his life. He's more than a diagnosis.
Provide helpful information and resources to your friend, should you come across any. It will show your friend that you're thinking of them and that you care.
As much as you can, validate your friend's feelings. They may range from anger to sadness to grief and back again. No matter what they are feeling, let them know that it's okay to feel their feelings, even if it's "That SUCKS." Trust me, she thinks it sucks, too.
Validate your friend's choices. If she wants to spend her money on expensive infertility treatments? Let her. If she wants to adopt? Let her. If she wants to live child-free? LET HER. It's her life.
Steer conversations AWAY from babies. It's easy, when out with your friends, to gab about your kids, but when someone at the table cannot easily have them? Listening to that stuff is a special brand of torture. Try to steer the conversation to more neutral topics.
Nix the suggestions. Don't tell your friend about your best friend's sister's cousin's boyfriend's girlfriend who couldn't have a baby until (insert diet, exercise, meditation, standing on head after sex suggestion) and now - she has 16 kids. Your friend may want to punch you.
Invite your friend to baby showers, family reunions, holidays, and christenings. An invitation allows the infertile man or woman to feel thought about and wanted - they can always decline the invitation.
How NOT To Help A Friend With Infertility:
Don't say, "You can always adopt!" Adoption, while a wonderful thing, may not be what your friend wants to do.
Don't say, "I had a friend who adopted and THEN she got pregnant right away! That's what YOU should do." Seriously, you don't need to tell someone how to live their lives.
Don't say, "You can have one of my kids!" It sounds glib and funny, perhaps a way to lessen the uncomfortable feelings, but it may also hurt them deeply.
Don't complain about pregnancy (if you are pregnant) in front of your friend. It's disrespectful and rude.
Do not say, "Just relax! It'll happen." Why? Because you do not know that. Plus, it's incredibly insensitive and dismissive of your friend and his emotions.
Don't be offended if your friend does not want to see birth announcements or pictures of your baby.
Don't offer suggestions or miracle cures to treat your friend's infertility.
Don't continually ask "Are you pregnant yet?" If your friend is pregnant, you'll know.
Don't bring up infertility in public unless your friend does first. Why? Some women may feel overwhelmed with emotion and begin to cry. Crying in public doesn't make anyone feel good.