Navigating conversations about your fertility journey
Many of our patients wonder about how to talk about infertility with family and friends.
- Is it important to share your fertility journey?
- How much detail is appropriate to share?
- What happens if they respond with unhelpful or hurtful comments?
The most important thing to remember when it comes to talking about infertility is that it is always up to you how much to share and with whom. Here are some tips for how to navigate conversations about infertility with your family and friends.
1. Decide how much you want to share about your experience with infertility
Before telling anyone about your experience with infertility, figure out what you would like to share and what you would like to keep private. If you have a partner, be sure to include them in this decision so you are both in alignment. Then, come up with language to use when discussing with family and friends. For instance, you may not want to talk about your specific infertility diagnosis or test results. Instead, you can use phrases like “we are working together with a fertility specialist,” or “it’s hard for us to have a baby, but we are exploring our options.” Keep in mind that not everyone needs to know the same information; you may choose to share more details with a close friend, but only broad strokes with another.
2. Decide who will be most supportive on your fertility journey
Ideally, sharing information about infertility with your loved ones should make your life easier, not harder. For instance, telling your parents may help to avoid well-meaning but hurtful questions like “when will we be getting grandchildren?” Sharing with a supportive and compassionate loved one also means you have someone to turn to when you need extra emotional support. Just like you don’t need to tell each person the same information, you also don’t need to tell everybody in your life. If you have friends or family that you think might be judgmental, dismissive, or unsupportive in any way, then you certainly don’t need to tell them.
3. Set clear and loving boundaries with your conversation about infertility
Even the most compassionate friends and family members might not know how to react when you share your experiences with infertility with them. Common, unhelpful reactions include:
- Bringing up alternatives like adoption
- Assuming fertility treatments like IVF will work the first time
- “Problem-solving” by sending you lots of articles and resources on infertility
- Sharing stories of “miracle babies”
- Completely avoiding conversations about pregnancy or babies, including in their own lives
It’s important to remember that in most cases, reactions like these come from a place of love. However, they can still be hurtful. One way to minimize difficult reactions to talking about infertility is to clearly set boundaries with your friends and family about how they can be helpful. For instance, you can say:
- “We have plenty of information from our fertility team, so all we are looking for from you is a sympathetic ear when things are hard.”
- “We wanted you to know what’s going on, but please don’t ask us for any more details. If we have any news to share after a treatment, you’ll be the first to know!”
- “Infertility is common, but it’s different for everyone. We appreciate your care, but we don’t want to talk about how someone else miraculously got pregnant. We are on our own journey.”
And if there are practical ways they can be supportive (driving to appointments, meal prep after a procedure, providing childcare during appointments if you have other children), it’s a great time to ask for their help.
4. Include resources for friends and family to learn about infertility
One benefit to being open about your fertility journey is that it helps to reduce the stigma around infertility. Talking with your friends and family is a great way to share information on how common infertility is and what it is like. That doesn’t mean you have to single-handedly educate your loved ones based on your own experience, though. Consider providing some resources, like this Infertility 101 list from RESOLVE, so if they have questions they can research on their own.
5. Remember: the most important thing is to take care of yourself
The goal of sharing your experience with infertility with your friends and family should always be to enlist support along your journey. You are not obligated to share any details, small or big — your experience is your own, and the choice to share it is yours as well. You may not be ready to open up, or you may realize after sharing that you need to not participate in pregnancy-related events like baby showers. All of these reactions are completely valid and normal. Trust your feelings, be honest and clear if you do choose to share, and always take care of your own needs first. If you’d like more guidance on how to talk about infertility with your family and friends, our staff at PNWF is happy to help and provide additional support.