One of the questions we are often asked is “How can I support a friend who is undergoing IVF?” Unfortunately, infertility is more common than many of us may realize. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, infertility is defined as the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of trying to conceive (or six months if the woman is over the age of 35). This condition affects one in eight couples, and can cause physical, emotional, and financial strain.
When you have a friend or family member who is undergoing fertility treatments, discussions about their family building journey can, at times, be difficult and challenging. Even if you have gone through fertility treatments yourself (or know someone who has), it is important to keep in mind that no two situations are alike.
Here are just a few ideas of what you can say or do to provide a safe and supportive space for a loved one while they are undergoing fertility treatments:
- Ask how you can help. If you do not already know how to support someone going through fertility treatments – that’s okay! The best way to get a better understanding of what you can do is simply by asking how you can be the most supportive during this time, and letting them know that you care. If you want to get specific, offer to meet for a manicure or tea, or when you can send a meal! It is also equally important to prepare for the possibility that a friend or family member may prefer to keep the details to themselves. Respect their space and understand that they will share updates when they’re ready.
- Do something nice for them. Fertility treatments can feel like you have a second job and it can be easy to let self-care fall to the wayside. Sending a note, a gift card for a spa day or date night, or a care package filled with their favorite things is a wonderful way to make your friend feel loved and supported. If they have shared important dates (like a transfer day or an upcoming appointment), making a note of these and just reaching out with a message or thoughtful gesture on that day (that doesn’t need a response) can be a wonderful remind to them that they are not alone.
- Educate yourself on the process. If you want to get a better understanding of what a friend or family member is going through, take the time to educate yourself. Read up about the various paths to parenthood your friend may be considering, so that you are informed and ready when your friend needs to talk. You may want to start with Resolve, an infertility advocacy and awareness organization – or The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) is a physician group that publishes excellent resources.
- Check in on them. Fertility treatments can feel very isolating. Reminding your friend or family member that you care about how they are doing or what steps they have next (if they have made it known that this is something they are okay with discussing) can serve as a great reminder to them that they are not alone. If you get the sense they welcome the check-in’s but don’t want to re-hash every step of their treatment, your friend may appreciate a text message checking in with suggestions on topics you have in common, be it the last book you read or your latest binge-watch on Netflix. Especially if they’re light-hearted.
Finally, when talking to your friend, try not to assume you’ll know how they feel, but respond to their feelings with validation (not advice! this can be tough). Hearing you validate their emotions can really cement that you’re on their side, and that you are a safe person to turn to when they’re struggling. Your support throughout this time will strengthen your relationship for years to come.
Supporting a loved one through fertility treatments isn’t easy, and we hope this leaves you with some concrete suggestions on where to start. If you still have questions, our team would love to help support and guide you. Reach out to us via the contact form to get started.