One of the worst things that you can say to a person dealing with infertility is “Just relax and it will happen.”  There is some truth in this as research is finding that stress may impact negatively on the production of both sperm and eggs  The truth is that stress impacts on all of your body so that is not surprising news. The truth is that stress is caused by infertility. And you can’t begin to imagine how much stress. This is so difficult for your friend so try not to use clichéd phrases that can be very hurtful. Trying to tell someone to relax when they are probably the most stressed out that they have ever been is not only tactless – it’s going to cause more stress. Not helpful.
It’s a medical fact that if a couple conceive after months of ‘relaxing’ they are not truly infertile. In order for a couple to be classed as infertile, they have to have been trying for a baby for a year – with no success. Many infertility Physicians won’t even see a couple until they have had that year of trying. And that has to be pretty stressful.
Infertile women are particularly at risk from well meaning but ultimately thoughtless and unhelpful people telling them to ‘Have a romantic meal and a bottle of wine’ or ‘Take a relaxing holiday somewhere.’ It is highly likely that the woman already feels she must be doing something wrong which is a huge burden to carry and it’s not even true. It is much more likely that she has an undiagnosed (or diagnosed) physical issue that is stopping her from conceiving a baby.
These comments are particularly upsetting if they come from someone that the infertile couple don’t know very well. For all you know, they may have endured surgery, hormone treatments, inseminations and the indignity and embarrassment of being prodded an probed by numerous Doctors.
Infertility is not a state of mind. It is a medical condition which is diagnosed and treated as much as possible. You need to bear in mind that even with treatment, some couples may never realise their dream of building a family. Relaxing, holidays and a positive attitude do not cure medically diagnosed infertility so please, please don’t suggest it.
If you genuinely want to help (and we’re sure you do) it’s an interesting exercise to visit a forum for infertile people and it won’t take you long to find threads of comments about insensitive things that have been said to them. Try FertileThoughts.com, TheBump.com, ivillage.com
We do understand how difficult it is when you are only trying to help, so here are some things not to say, courtesy of The National Infertility Association RESOLVE Some of them will make you wince but these are all the sort of comments that infertile couples face. We have added our thoughts in brackets to some of them. Their number one offender is…you guessed it…
- “Just relax…”
- “Just enjoy being able to sleep late…travel…etc.,”
- “There are worse things that could happen” (Oh, that’s all right then. Seriously?)
- ‘Maybe God doesn’t intend for you to be a mother.’ (Oooh, that’s an awful one!)
- “Why aren’t you trying IVF?”
- “Why don’t you just adopt?”
- “You’re young – you have plenty of time to get pregnant.”
- “I’ll donate the sperm” (ouch…can we say crude?)