Infertility can prove challenging at different stages for those directly involved. But it can also be difficult for friends and family members of the couple. While you’ll want to maintain sensitivity and awareness when speaking about infertility, it is important to address the emotional stress between infertile couples and their friends and family. Do so in the right way, and the entire process becomes more of an exercise in family support and less of an emotional weight on all individuals involved.
How Does Infertility Affect Family or Friends?
Depending on each unique family system or group of friends, there may be a wide range of emotions felt by the individual members. Siblings who are similar in age may be trying to conceive at the same time, and if one is having trouble it can pose a strain on the relationship that can be quite damaging in the long run. A woman who conceives a child without any complications may feel guilty for the relative ease at which she became pregnant, while her sister may feel resentful if she is suffering through infertility with her partner.
If a couple is having problems conceiving, a lot of attention may be given to them by family members – possibly leaving siblings of the couple feeling left out. This can put the parents in a tough situation as well. Parents may feel as if they’re forced to become mediators between their child who is “fertile” and the child who is not.
The impact of infertility on family and friends is real, but there are ways to cope. For family members or friends who are reeling from the emotional pain of a couple’s infertility concerns, keep the following tips in mind to help minimize the negative impact of the situation.
How Can I Support Those Facing Infertility?
Don’t minimize the issue
While you may feel like saying, “It’s going to be fine, don’t worry” to an infertile couple, this minimizes the situation and can make the couple feel like you’re not validating their pain. Simply let them know you are there for them, and that you would like to help in any way possible, which could mean nothing more than listening.
Don’t leave anyone behind
As a circle of friends evolves and matures, kids often pop into the picture. If you have a couple in your group of friends that is having infertility concerns, make sure you include them in all your planned activities as if they had kids, too. Kid’s birthday parties, trips to the fair – whatever you have on the agenda that involves your friends who do have kids should also be extended to anyone without kids in your group. This allows for a choice in participation based on their comfort levels at the time.
Often the best thing you can do to support the couple, while at the same time maintaining harmony within the family, is to simply respect the couple’s boundaries. Just because they are having problems conceiving doesn’t mean you must overwhelm them with your physical presence and gush your support over them. Simply let them know that you are there for them, regardless of what they need, and then respect their privacy to the degree they’ve established.
Join a support group
Fertility support groups are widely recognized as a powerful resource for those experiencing fertility issues, as well as for the individual’s family members or friends. According to the National Infertility Association, those who are struggling to conceive (or those related to these individuals) should seek the help of a support group if the answer is a “yes” to any of these questions:
- Do you feel isolated or lonely?
- Do you have few people to talk to regarding the diagnosis?
- Do you feel like no one understands what you are going through?
- Is your normal routine affected by the struggle to conceive?
- Do you feel as if you have lost control of your life plan?
- Do you have difficulty coping with holidays or other social events?
Chances are, you or someone you know, will struggle with infertility at some point. You must work hard to keep family and friend relationships strong, work through the fertility concern with a plan in mind, and learn how to support those closest to you in their time of need.