6 Ways to support a friend struggling with infertility
Infertility is still somewhat of a taboo topic, especially in the Latino community. But it's actually a lot more common than people realize. In fact, according to the CDC, 12 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have issues conceiving--that's a lot! With that said, you still want to be careful what you say to a friend struggling with this. Here are a few ways you can show your support during this difficult time, because what you say or don't say matters more than you think.
More from MamásLatinas: Why am I irrationally afraid of infertility?
"Infertility is not more common today than in past years," says Dr. Farah S. Chuong of Fertility & IVF Center of Miami. "I believe this perception that infertility is more common now than ever, stems from the years of silence regarding this topic. Couples suffering with impaired fertility often feel ashamed and saddened by their struggles to become parents." In other words, women suffering from infertility are not alone but still need support from loved ones around them. That's where you come in. Here's how to avoid any foot-in-mouth issues:
Try to relate: "If you have a personal experience, or someone close to you who does, that can be a great way to start the conversation," says Crystal Claney, owner of Iris Reproductive Mental Health. "Or offer recommendations with books to read, organizations for support, etc. Don't force it, just offer."
Don't tell her she can just adopt: The worse thing you can tell a woman struggling with infertility is to adopt. It's insensitive and also hurtful. "Adoption is an option for couples looking to expand their family, but it is an extremely personal decision that should not be taken lightly," says Dr. Chuong. "It's not a substitution, it's a completely separate choice and it deserves respect for its own purpose."
Don't tell her to relax: One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that stress causes infertility and one of the biggest mistakes people make is telling a woman struggling with infertility to relax. "Stress doesn't cause infertility, but most certainly the reverse is true," says Dr. Chuong. "Infertile women are more likely to report higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression as compared to their fertile counterparts. This is not surprising as the effects of infertility can interfere with every aspect of a couple's life including work, family, friends, money and sex." Instead of telling her to relax, help her find ways to reduce stress.
Don't assume she doesn't want to hear if you're pregnant: "Ideally, before you get pregnant, let your friend know that you are trying to get pregnant," says Lisa Schuman, LCSW, of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut. "Ask her if she would like you to share any news with her, if and when there is news to share, and how you should share it. For some friends, it might be easier to receive the news over email so that she doesn't have to respond or react right away. Others might prefer to get the news in person. Give your friend the opportunity to choose."
Don't tell her she's lucky to not have kids: "Parenting is hard. Parents get frustrated, but your friends and family members struggling with their infertility would give anything to have those bad days," says Dr. Chuong. So be mindful and sensitive of that before telling her she's blessed to not be a parent.
Show her you care: "Be there. Ask her if she wants to talk, cry, or yell," says Claney. "Ask if you can go to appointments with her. Send her a funny card. Just acknowledging her experience in some way is helpful."
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