How can I support a friend going through infertility treatment?
How can I help?
If you’re reading this page, it’s probably because you have an inkling that a good friend has concerns about her chances of parenthood. She may not have said so directly. It may have been a casual remark that she made or some small change in her behaviour that made you stop and think. It might even seem like she’s avoiding you.
Deciding to seek fertility treatment can feel a big deal – an admission that something’s not quite right. It’s a private subject which not everyone is comfortable discussing. This may add to your dilemma about how you can offer her support.
Because it’s such a personal matter, many couples choose not to share their experiences openly with friends or family. As a result they may inadvertently isolate themselves. For a friend standing by, wanting to help, it can be a frustrating experience.
|Problems with fertility are widespread. About one in ten couples experience difficulties conceiving.1 But there is cause for optimism. With modern treatments most couples eventually succeed.2|
How is she feeling
It can be difficult to appreciate just how emotionally draining conception difficulties can be unless you’ve been through it yourself. Everyone’s reaction is different. But one thing is sure. Infertility can alter nearly every aspect of a person’s life: their self-esteem, their dreams for the future and their relationships with others. Few situations in life are as challenging and overwhelming.
It may help to read about common feelings that couples experience at the start of their treatment journey:
- Loss of control – the sense that doctors and tests are taking over their life.
- Mounting resentment against their body, their partner, or friends who are pregnant or already have children.
- Self-reproach, guilt –‘what did I do to deserve this? Could I have done something differently?’
- Humiliation over not functioning ‘normally’.
- A need for privacy, leading to reclusive behaviour.
- A sense of being misunderstood by those who have children or are pregnant.
- Strain, as their own relationship is tested.
- Shock, disbelief at their prognosis, and/or relief that a problem is confirmed.
|Pregnancy is a result of a complex combination of factors and events. Even if doctors are able to identify the barriers preventing pregnancy, conception still takes a degree of luck. Many couples go through multiple cycles to conceive. Learn about the fertility pathway, so you can support a friend every step of the way.|
How you can help
During the evaluation period, most couples are searching for answers. Hopes of finding a quick solution may be replaced with uncertainty. The testing period can be stressful and expensive and your friendship may experience new demands.
Be the friend she wants you to be
Help fill her down time. Arrange a film, an afternoon shopping, or a night out dancing – activities that carry no expectation of heavy conversation. Boost her spirits and shift her focus.
Accept that she may not want a confidante
It may be hard, especially if you’ve been close friends for many years. But your friend may decide the subject of her fertility treatment is off-limits. She may be seeing a professional counsellor. Either way, don’t take it personally and avoid sensitive topics that may make her feel uncomfortable.
Be a good listener
Let her be the one to raise the subject of fertility should she wish and let her determine how much she wants to mention. Avoid asking questions unless she invites them and try not to offer advice or solutions. She’s in the hands of professionals. Your role is to help keep her positive about the future. The road to conception may take time.
Don’t be too demanding
At times, she may feel overwhelmed and unable to face even her closest friends. Don’t take offence if she cancels plans at the last minute. Tell her you’ll call her again in a few days if she doesn’t get in touch in a day or two. Chances are she’ll be in a different frame of mind the next time you speak.
Increase your understanding of fertility issues
Use this website to learn what you can about infertility, its causes and treatments. It will help you understand what your friend is going through.
|The journey your friend and her partner are facing may be long with many ups and downs. But every stage is also a step towards realising their dream of having a baby. That has to be positive! Read about fertility tests and treatments men and women undergo.|
1. Boivin J et al, International estimates of infertility prevalence and treatment seeking: potential need and demand for infertility medical care. Hum Reprod. 2007;22: 1506-1512. 2. Pinbourg A et al, Prospective longitudinal cohort study on cumulative 5-year delivery and adoption rates among 1338 couples initiating infertility treatment. Hum Reprod.2009;24: 991-999.