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What not to say to a couple struggling with infertility

One in six couples will struggle with fertility issues in their life, but it can be difficult to know what to say and how to support them, especially if they are a close friend or family member. It’s amazing how a little compassion, kindness and awareness can go to helping someone cope.

Here we share some insight into what to say and what not to say to a couple who may be struggling through their fertility journey:


1. “Just adopt..”

Although adoption can be a wonderful option for some couples, it doesn’t take away the pain of not being able to have their own biological child. Adoption is also not always possible and suggesting this can be seen as dismissive advice that doesn’t take into account the couples’ emotional or financial situation.


2. “Just relax…”

Believe it or not, telling someone to “just relax” is possibly one of the worst and most commonly given pieces of advice and can often bring about more stress. Although it’s an attempt to appear helpful, it is based solely on the misconception that “stress causes infertility” which is a myth. The expression can bring about the implication that it’s their fault and suggests that they’re doing something wrong.

In fact, a study published in the BMJ looked at the risk of compromised fertility treatment and emotional distress, and found no link. Stress levels, for your own personal and emotional wellbeing should not be ignored, however, and we strongly suggest to seek counselling or support to help find ways for you to cope.


3. “Have you tried alternative therapies, medicine etc?”

This is something we always strongly advise against when seeking fertility treatment. Homeopathic remedies, Chinese herbs and medicine can shown on impact fertility drugs negatively and result in a compromised cycle for some patients. Every patient’s fertility journey is different and what works for one person may not work for another so please check with your fertility specialist before taking anything.


4. “What’s meant to be will be”

Without doubt, this is one of the least comforting things to hear when you’re trying to fall pregnant. There are so many causes of infertility and over the last 50 years, reproductive medicine has come such a long way. Couples seeking fertility treatment make a deep emotional commitment of time and effort and statements such as this may seem quite confronting, especially in the midst of the stressfulness of treatment.


5. “I know how you feel…”

Everyone’s fertility journey and experience will be different, and the mental, emotional and physical journey will not be the same as yours. Even if you are going through the same thing or have been through IVF, sometimes it can be upsetting if they are not handling the situation as well as you have.


6. “So, when are you having kids?”

It may not be intentional, but this dreaded question comes to every couple without children and can really sting. It places a lot of pressure on couples and can be extremely hurtful to hear if you’re trying for a baby and haven’t achieved a pregnancy.


7. “You’re young, you have plenty of time!”

As good natured as this one sounds, sadly this isn’t always the case. Being young doesn’t necessarily mean time is on your side, especially if someone is suffering from premature ovarian failure or another condition that worsens over time like endometriosis. While being young does certainly increase your chances of successful fertility treatment, it doesn’t always and a young age is never a guarantee for success.


8. “Have you tried IVF?”

In Vitro Fertilisation is not only a costly and emotional journey for patients, but it can also be a stressful time too.  Success rates vary for each patient depending on the cause of infertility and although more than 200,000 babies have been born in Australia and New Zealand as a result of IVF-type treatments, success is never guaranteed.

If a couple is struggling to conceive, there’s a reasonable chance they’ve already started looking at fertility treatments or are currently undergoing treatment. They may feel that the more people that know, the more people they will have to tell if the treatment is unsuccessful, which will add more distress to their already stressful situation.