Being pregnant can be a stressful experience under the best of circumstances--health worries compounded with financial concerns are often overwhelming. Pregnancy after struggling with infertility is especially emotionally difficult. Not only has your friend invested time and money into becoming pregnant, but she’s all too painfully aware of the possible outcomes.
Friends and family who are poised to deliver platitudes and ask innocent questions need to consider their words carefully. In the face of infertility, finding the right words to navigate a conversation without overstepping boundaries or inadvertently causing harm can seem daunting.
What do you say to someone pregnant after infertility--and what should you never, ever say? We’ve compiled a list of common responses to a pregnancy announcement that women struggling with infertility are tired of hearing, as well as more helpful and kind alternatives.
Common Slip Ups to Avoid When Discussing Pregnancy Following Infertility
10 Things You Shouldn’t Say and Why You Shouldn’t Say Them
Infertility is an incredibly difficult and draining struggle for couples and individuals. Although the impulse to address infertility through questions and supporting comments may be well intentioned, your reaction to a pregnancy announcement can trigger a stress reaction.
Choose your words carefully. Some of the most common reactions are very hurtful ones--let’s discuss what you shouldn’t say and why you shouldn’t say it.
“If it’s meant to be it will be”
It can be so easy to fall back on popular aphorisms, especially when you’re frantically searching for a good response. It’s imperative that you consider the implications of these pre-packaged phrases.
This comment implies that failure to become pregnant is because your friend is unfit to be a mother. Aphorisms such as this are, at heart, meant to draw awareness to our inability to control every aspect of our lives. But the suggestion that your friend should graciously accept even unwanted outcomes, such as a miscarriage, is cruel.
When emotional, financial, and physical investment are high, avoid using aphorisms that underplay your friend’s strong investment.
“Everything happens for a reason”
Another useless axiom. Infertility happens for many reasons, some of which can be addressed through IVF or fertility treatments and some that can’t. Your friend has spent countless nights trying to figure out the reason behind her infertility issues--and has most likely blamed herself in the process. Avoiding blaming language is crucial.
Telling your friend that there was some great cosmic “reason” behind her difficulties becoming pregnant is harmful for a number of reasons. There’s a lot of ambiguity in this statement that would enable your friend to interpret it as you turning her struggles into a learning opportunity.
“Now that you’ve passed ___ weeks, you don’t have to worry!”
While the risk of miscarriage drops to 10% at the six week mark, your friend is most likely still worried about the possibility. And for those who have experienced miscarriages past the six week mark before, this is an especially touchy subject.
Trying to place an expiration date on worry is impossible. Pregnancy, with all its associated risks and rewards, is an experience in which worry is to be expected. Rather than ignoring it, try acknowledging it and offering up your support if worrying begins to take a toll.
“How did it happen?”
Especially when said in an incredulous tone, asking your friend how they conceived is unnecessarily personal. Even with a friend who has been open about IVF or other conception experiences, this isn’t a subject to broach right away.
Asking how your friend conceived also makes you sound disbelieving, as if you can’t believe your friend managed to conceive at all. Make sure you refrain from even more probing questions, avoiding language like “natural conception,” which delegitimizes other forms of conception.
“Now it’ll be easier to get pregnant again!”
One of the most frequently heard--and unappreciated--comments women receive after dealing with infertility is that pregnancy will in some way enable their body to conceive again in the future. This simply isn’t a reality for many couples, especially when the pregnancy is a result of IVF.
This seemingly positive comment can be a reminder of an unwelcome reality, one in which pregnancy is not a panacea for infertility. Your friends most likely keen to focus on the current pregnancy--bringing up potential future conception will only serve to remind her of all the effort that went into this one.
“See, you just needed to be patient”
Don’t fall into this “I told you so” trap. Patience is a virtue, but not the one you want to focus on here. Patience isn’t the only factor driving pregnancy after infertility. Time, money, tears, health, and more all contributed to this outcome.
Truthfully, you had no idea beforehand whether your friend would ever conceive, and acting like the months and years of trying to conceive would inevitably end in pregnancy is misleading.
“Don’t get too excited”
Your cautious comment, while most likely meant to protect against any future pain, is nonetheless pessimistic and unwarranted. Reminding your friend of the potential for miscarriage is a sure way to leave her feeling vulnerable, stressed, and upset.
Your friend is probably spending more time worrying than she is being excited. Bringing those worries to the surface helps no one.
“How much did it cost?”
Especially if you’re referring to the cost of IVF treatments that led to the pregnancy, bringing up costs associated with becoming pregnant is not only rude but also stress inducing. Some couples take out second mortgages in their efforts to finance fertility treatments--unless you’re doing their taxes, there’s no need for you to feel entitled to this information.
Bringing up your friend’s financial situation during a conversation in which you should be celebrating her good news is like a blow to the face.
“Adoption is always an option”
Adoption is a great way to build a family, but it’s not a treatment for infertility. A comment about adoption dropped right after a pregnancy announcement seems like just another way of saying “If this doesn’t work out, there’s always something else to try.”
Your friend doesn’t want to hear about adoption right now--most likely it’s something she’s already considered and, for her own personal reasons, decided not to pursue at the moment. Prompting her to consider adoption at a time like this assumes that this is new information to her, invalidating her struggles to conceive by pointing out an “obvious” alternative.
“All you had to do was [lose weight, stop stressing, etc.]”
Don’t force a correlation between lifestyle changes and a sudden positive pregnancy test. Unless your friend has spoken with you at length about trying to reduce stress or lose weight in an attempt to boost fertility, there’s no need to mention it now.
Statements like this also place blame on your friend, something you definitely want to avoid. There’s no reason to invalidate months or years of infertility struggles by falsely identifying a simple solution after conception.
3 Phrases to Fall Back On During a Pregnancy Announcement
The Supportive Responses Your Friend Wants to Hear
Here are some congratulatory phrases that respect the boundaries and experience of your friend. Keep in mind that she’s being inundated by responses, reactions, and advice right now. If you sense that she’s getting overwhelmed by the amount of attention she’s receiving, keep your reactions simple and sweet.
“You’re going to be an amazing mom”
Your friend may be feeling vulnerable right now, worried about her dreams finally becoming a reality. This is a great way to support your friend and show your encouragement.
“Can I let others know?”
Always be sure to assess boundaries before releasing information that may be confidential. Your friend has chosen to share this moment with you, but she may not be open to the whole world knowing yet.
Raising this question lets her know that you respect her boundaries and reminds her that she has a measure of control over the situation and is in charge of who’s privy to what information.
“I’m here to help--I’m always able to [run groceries, do laundry, etc.]”
Instead of dishing out a blanket statement like “Call me if you need me,” let your friend know exactly how you’ll be able to help and in what ways she can lean on you.
Acknowledging that she may want help in the future also acknowledges that pregnancy isn’t easy, and just because it’s something she’s wanted for a long time doesn’t mean that she can’t complain or ask for help.
At the end of the day, your friend knows that anything you say is well-intentioned. If you do say something that comes off as hurtful, address your mistake and apologize. It happens! But learning to identify the common phrases that women pregnant after infertility dislike will help you avoid that situation.
This is an exciting, stressful, long-anticipated time. Don’t be afraid to celebrate!
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