Infertility Etiquette

So someone you know is going through some family planning challenges. Below is a list of things you should consider when having a conversation with them:

  • Have an honest, private (no one either of you knows within earshot) conversation on how often (if ever) the subject of future families should come up. Know that this conversation can be revisited.
  • Listen. Don’t say “I know how you feel.” Even if you have gone through the infertility process before, remember that everyone’s situation and reactions to the circumstances are different.
  • Listen. Really listen and be present. If you have been given the privilege to hear the story, or hear about the struggle, honor that privilege and just be silent.
  • Don’t give false hope. You don’t know what the future holds, so don’t promise that there will be any specific family in the future.
  • If you are asked to give them space, give them space. Don’t ask “Can I ask you a question?” Don’t ask how the treatment is going. If you are genuinely concerned and you’ve given them space, you can say something along the lines of “You know I’m always here to listen when/if you are ready” Be aware that with that opening, they will come to you when they are ready to share, if at all.
  • Never ask “Are you pregnant!?”
  • Never ask “When are you going to have kids?”
  • Ask them how they want to be notified (if and when) you get pregnant. What form of communication and when do they want to know. Consider when you plan on telling your friends and family as well. Be honest and open.
  • Have a conversation about when it is ok to talk about baby showers.
  • Ask them how you can help: emotionally, physically, spiritually.
  • Be yourself. Don’t change the way you act around them. If you go through a rough patch in your life don’t avoid sharing your struggle because you don’t want to be a “burden” to them (unless they explicitly say so in another conversation).
  • Don’t hide your pregnancy. If you’re telling other friends, be sensitive, but still share it with your friends facing infertility.
  • Never ask about the outcome, numbers, or specifics of ART
  • Reach out regularly to check in just to let people know you are thinking about them and not necessarily to ask “if they need anything.”
  • Don’t give advice. Well-intentioned advice can make them feel like they are not doing enough, implies they haven’t considered all of their options, or that they are at fault for their situation.
  • Don’t ask who has the fertility issue.
  • Let people know you are there for them and thinking about them.
  • Be happy for them and their learnings from this experience.
  • Offer to take them out to a movie or other activity so you can spend quality time together.