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What NOT to say or ask about infertility at holiday gatherings

December 14, 2020
Alisha Chunara

Gathering with the family to celebrate the holidays can conjure up an atmosphere of joy and excitement. However, family members going through infertility issues may not be able to feel that same excitement and joy. Therefore, it would be best to understand what exactly should never be brought up before family members experiencing infertility complications, so that warm relations can be kept. In addition, those family members can feel safe and secure in their family environment because they will know that their families are empathetic to their situation.

Well, this can be the case for most people, but specifically, for people with infertility difficulties, the holidays can seem like an animated obstacle course that is mandatory to go through every year. However, why should people with infertility problems silently suffer through their family holiday celebrations? They should not, so here is a detailed guide on what not to ask or say about infertility at holiday get-togethers.

Here are ten things to avoid doing with people struggling with infertility during the holidays:

picture of couple in bedroom looking worried
It is imperative to be careful around the subject of infertility in front of family members or friends going through infertility, because they do not need any more emotional stress. Image courtesy of Center of Surrogate Parenting.
  1. Please do not say the first thing that comes to your mind concerning infertility, or offer any unsolicited advice to your family members or friends.
  2. Please do not tell your friends or family members to have a drink, to relax, to “stop trying,” or to go on a vacation with their partner or spouse.
  3. Please do not minimize the pain or struggle of your family members or friends, but instead acknowledge their struggles and make an attempt to make them feel heard and seen.
  4. Please do not put forward solutions or push the idea of adopting children to your friends or family members, because adoption is considered a calling by some people, just like having biological children, and not a substitution or consolation for a couple. (Note: Please conduct some research on the true cost of the process of adoption and fertility treatments prior to even bringing the subject of adoption up to your family members or friends).
  5. Please do not offer up ambiguous lines like “It’ll happen in God’s timing” to your family members or friends.
  6. Please do not ever say lines like “you are still young” to your friends or family members, because infertility affects people of every age, background, and demographic and therefore does not discriminate. Consequently, it is necessary to be aware, to be educated and to be seeking answers early on because this all actually produces better odds for your friends or family members to get pregnant.
  7. Please do not gossip about the struggles of your family members or friends to other people, because infertility is an exceptionally personal, sensitive, and private matter that should be respected.
  8. Please do not make thoughtless and insensitive jokes or remarks in front of friends or family members who are struggling with infertility.
  9. If you are currently in the process of a pregnancy, then please do not complain about your current pregnancy to your family members or friends or in front of them. 
  10. Please do not tell your friends or family members that their fertility issues could be worse.

Here are some more things to avoid doing with people struggling with infertility during the holidays:

  • Please do not blame family members or friends for going through infertility issues because they are exercising too much, eating the wrong foods, or drinking alcohol. Please do not guilt them because guilt does not always result in people stopping their injurious habits but instead guilt intensifies people’s practices of injurious habits.
  • Please do not act like infertility is contagious.
  • Please do not act like your family members’ or friends’ issues are about you; you should be empathetic, but not overbearing and pushy with your friends and family members when they are discussing their infertility complications.
  • Please do not casually work your friends’ or family members’ infertility problems into your conversations with them, because they do not need to be constantly reminded about it. 

Finally, here are some specific lines that you should not say to people who are struggling with infertility in any holiday season:

Blurry picture of a family at a dining table with red candles in the foreground
You cannot afford to be careless with your conversations around the table during the holidays when you are with friends or family members with infertility problems. Image courtesy of integris
  • “Hey! How’s it going? Well, when are we finally going to hear good news?? Huh?” >nudge<

This line will seem to your family members or friends like you just plunged a steak knife into their stomach; it will feel that painful. 

  • “Hey (insert name of family member or friend here), I really want to know: what is wrong with you exactly?”

For your family members or friends, this line will be extremely hurtful.

  • “Ohmygod, if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, then just have more sex! That’s how it works!”

Just having more sex does not solve infertility.

  • “Hey, do you know what you need? A vacation!!! (Insert the name of your family member or friend here) went on a three week trip to Paris and came back enceinte - get it? Huh?” >Nudge<

You need to understand that most of your friends’ or family members’ money is probably tied up in fertility treatments, so they probably do not even have the sufficient resources to even go on a vacation, even if they want to.

  • “Hey, I heard about (insert ideas like books on infertility, herbal remedies, wizard law, standing on one’s head for 30 minutes post-coitis, etc.) from my co-worker’s best friend’s cousin’s sister’s sister-in-law. How about you try it too! Who knows, this could be just the cure!”

Each person’s journey with infertility is not the same; each person will have her unique circumstances, so please do not think that some random solution will apply to your friends or family members.

  • “Yeah, I don’t think that’s a long enough time to be trying to get pregnant. I know this one couple who tried for (insert a number) years and they got pregnant.”

This line will make your friends or family members feel horrible, because this is not a game of “who has it worse” or “who has tried longer.”  Again, it is important to internalize the fact that each couple’s infertility journey is different.

  •  “Hey, take it easy! You just need to relax and you will eventually conceive.”

Hey, your friends or family members are peeing on sticks, getting their blood drawn, having an ultrasound every other week, getting injected with hormones, and consuming fertility medication like they are Skittles or M&Ms. THEY CANNOT RELAX! THE HORMONES WILL NOT LET THEM!!!

Picture of a person's hand holding another person's hand on top of a dining table

Couples struggling with infertility should not have to rely only on each other for moral and emotional support - you can be there for them as well. Image courtesy of verywell family.

It would be extremely wonderful and heartwarming for people going through infertility if spending the holidays with family and friends can be an occasion for them to forget their troubles for a while, or at least bask in the care and warmth of those who wish them well and love them no matter what situation they are going through.

Image courtesy of screenrant.

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