5 Things to Never Say to a Woman Dealing With Infertility
You're just trying to help, but you might be making it worse.
Before she had her first baby in 2011, Zahie El Kouri went through multiple rounds of IVF and suffered several miscarriages. She knows just how lonely it can feel to navigate fertility issues but the writer from Austin, Texas, also knows the value of family and friends who offer a listening ear and kind words along the way. The love she received on her path to parenthood inspired her to write Don't Tell Her to Relax ($10, amazon.com). Below, we've pulled five tips from her book on what not to say to your infertile loved one (ILO).
"The minute you stop trying, you'll get pregnant"
You want to ease your ILO's anxiety, and provide a dose of optimism. But telling her to relax doesn't have that effect, El Kouri explains. To a woman panicked about her ability to have a child, a "chill out" directive can sound glib and insensitive. Infertility is a medical condition and adopting a carefree attitude won't remedy the underlying causes. A better way to show your support is to ask about her fertility treatments, El Kouri writes, and let her know you're there for her whenever she wants to talk.
"I just know you'll be a mother soon"
It may be especially tempting to say this when your ILO is in the middle of an IVF cycle. But promising motherhood isn't fair when there are no guarantees, El Kouri points out. "In fact, depending on several factors, there's actually less than a 50 percent chance that the first cycle will give your ILO a baby, she writes. Instead, let her know you're thinking of her by saying something like, "I'm sending fertile thoughts your way."
"Why don't you just adopt?"
"Remember, we live in an information age, so your ILO knows that adoption is an option," El Kouri writes. She may have already ruled it out. Or maybe she or her partner doesn't qualify. (It's harder to adopt than you might think.) Broaching the subject so abruptly may make your ILO feel as if you doubt her choices. That said, if the two of you have already discussed her struggle in depth, you could gently ask, "Is adoption something you might be interested in?"
"Don't get pregnant with octuplets!"
An Octomom joke probably isn't the best way to get her to crack a smile. Your ILO has likely spent endless hours thinking about how many embryos to transfer in her IVF process. It's a complicated decision involving many factors, including the risk of complications with multiple births. While a joke isn't quite right, she may appreciate an opportunity to talk about it, El Kouri says in the book. Her suggested phrasing: "I hear it is hard to decide how many embryos to transfer. What number seems right to you?"
"Isn't it time to give up?"
You see the toll IVF takes both physically and emotionally and question whether it's all worth it. But that's a decision that belongs only to your ILO. Many first IVF cycles fail, El Kouri explains, "and they often provide valuable information to your ILO's doctor that will increase the likelihood of success with a second cycle." The best thing you can do for your ILO is support her, every step of the way. Rather than asking if she's ready to throw in the towel, say, "What do you think you will do next?"