10 tips for discussing infertility with compassion
An estimated 15 percent of couples will have trouble conceiving or experience infertility. Having a reservoir of helpful words to share with those facing infertility is an essential component of loving those particular neighbors well. Knowing which words are unhelpful to say is equally important.
5 Compassionate things to say
1. “I am praying for you.”
One helpful response to hearing about someone’s struggle with infertility is letting them know that you are talking to God about their pain and asking for His intervention. Prayers should not only be that the couple would be able to conceive but also that they will find peace and contentment with the path to parenthood that God desires for them — even if that looks like pursuing adoption instead of having biological children.
2. “I am here to listen if you want to vent.”
Many times, keeping silent and listening is the best way to show compassion to someone who is struggling with infertility. If someone has chosen to confide in you about their infertility struggles, honor that trust by patiently listening to them and allowing that conversation to occupy your time together.
3. “You will be wonderful parents, even if your path to parenthood looks different than you expected.”
Some couples facing infertility may greatly desire children but feel intimidated by the adoption process or have a stigmatized view of adoption. Encourage them that an adoption is a beautiful form of growing a family if they feel led to pursue it.
4. “I know that today may be extra hard for you. Do you need anything?”
When someone is facing infertility, specific events or celebrations can lose their joy or become a source of pain. Sensitively reaching out on days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, or after events like baby showers or gender reveal parties for other people, can help your loved ones feel seen and understood.
5. “Seeking professional support and counseling is healthy, not shameful.”
Nearly 40% of women who experience infertility develop symptoms of depression. While lending a listening ear as a friend is always helpful, it may also be necessary to encourage a loved one struggling with depression as a result of infertility to seek further counseling.
5 things not to say
1. “When are you going to have a baby?”
Unless a married couple shares with you that they are open to discussing their plans to become parents, it is not appropriate to ask; you never know who may be struggling with infertility or miscarriage. Respect the privacy of married couples in their fertility journey by allowing them to make announcements at their own pace about having a baby.
2. “At least …”
A compassionate response to hearing that a loved one is facing infertility does not include making them feel guilty or ungrateful by pointing out the ways they are blessed. Phrases such as “At least you have each other” or “At least you will save money without kids” are not the encouragement that couples need to hear.
3. “Not everyone is meant to be a parent.”
Just because a couple is struggling or unable to conceive biologically does not mean that they are not cut out to be parents. Infertility may be an indication that they should pursue adoption, not that they should abandon parenthood entirely.
4. “Here’s what worked for us when we were trying to conceive.”
Many couples facing infertility have already consulted with a doctor or fertility specialist about their dilemma. Unless the couple specifically requests your advice about conception, it is not your place to offer unsolicited solutions or home remedies.
5. “Just have faith, and God will allow you to conceive.”
Although doubtlessly tragic, it is a biological reality of living in a fallen world that some couples will never be able to conceive naturally. Compassionate encouragement to couples facing infertility should not include false promises or making them believe that a lack of faith is the reason why they cannot conceive. Couples should certainly seek God in their heartache, but infertility is not a punishment for a lack of faith and should not be treated as such. Examples in Scripture of God opening or closing a woman’s womb for a specific purpose can be distinguished from the everyday experience of infertility as a result of the fall, in which case God is not punishing a woman individually through infertility.
Originally published at the Family Research Council.
Joy Zavalick is Research Assistant for the Center for Human Dignity at Family Research Council.