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What NOT to Say to Someone Undergoing Infertility Treatments


What should you NOT say to Someone Going Through Infertility Treatments? How can you navigate this sensitive subject?

I thought it might be helpful to discuss how to address the ups and downs of fertility and infertility treatments. When I broke my back (but we didn’t know it yet), I had a post on What You CAN Say to a Person Who is Injured, and people seemed to find it helpful. This is going to be a two part-er, starting with what not to say, and then I am going to follow up with what TO say!

What NOT to Say to Someone Going through Infertility Treatments

What should you NOT say to Someone Going Through Infertility Treatments? How can you navigate this sensitive subject? @suzlyfe

For the most part, I have had incredible support. That being said, I’ve been the recipient of some comments that have been less than helpful. I 100% understand that this is just about the most sensitive of situations–you are having to contend with someone’s hopes, dreams, future, romantic relationships, medical health, physical health, and yes, their very identity. The comments may be coming from places of love; they just misguided attempts to help or offer consolation, so I want to offer some help in navigating these treacherous waters.

None of the following comments are directed at ANYONE

It’s Ok to Feel (Insert how you think that they should be feeling).

Now, on the surface, this seems innocuous. But here is the rub: YOU are telling THEM how to feel, though indirectly. Don’t put the words/emotions in their mouth/head. 

Well, I guess it is on to the next! or Take x amount of time to grieve.

For the former, if they want to say that, let them–most likely, they are trying to use humor or simply trying to convince themselves to move on. For the latter, remember first of all that everyone heals at their own speed, and, second of all, you don’t want them to feel that they should a) wallow or b) feel terrible about themselves if they don’t take as much time as you think that they should.

Pretty much anything that questions their doctor or protocol.

Just. NO. As I discussed in this post on how to survive infertility and infertility treatments, the relationship between the infertility patient and her doctor should be built on trust and confidence. Unless YOU are her doctor, keep your mouth shut, even if you are A doctor. The patient protocol is tailored to the patient and the situation. If you really want to go to Hell, you question her doctor right after she has gotten bad news. That is kicking a puppy. She is picking her journey. If she asks you what you think, then you give her your two cents. Until then, quiet.

You should gain weight. Go eat a cheeseburger.

If you are not my doctor, my Dietitian, or someone else who is medically certified to make an assessment of my eating with a log of my daily food intake and my exercise in your hands, you are not qualified to make this comment. Period. End of story. Are doctors always right? Absolutely not, and I discussed the fact that we should all advocate for ourselves. But is it your business? Nope. 

A doctor is not going to proceed with IVF or other fertility treatments if they are basically sure that the protocol will be futile. They are not going to compromise their numbers and percentage of favorable outcomes. 

(Insert Quick Fix Here)

I can’t tell you how many comments of a similar nature I have gotten with regards to Crohn’s (Have you tried x diet? Are you sure you should run? Why don’t you just get surgery?) and while maybe they are well meaning, honestly, they are just hurtful and ignorant. Pregnancy, Crohn’s, Depression… there are so many people who have dealt with these conditions over the years, and yes, many have had success in dealing with each of these conditions. That is why there are protocols–there has been sufficient success with certain avenues to establish patterns for treatment. THAT SAID–at the end of the day, the body is going to do what it is going to do. Sometimes, you just need luck on your side.

At least you don’t have morning sickness! Got get a drink! Go do (insert activity here), you couldn’t do that if you were pregnant!

Basically, you are telling them that they are lucky to not be dealing with the less than savory aspects of pregnancy.

If they say that they want to go get a beer, tell them that you will get one for them. I have both had a beer and gone for a run within 24 hours of hearing about both of my negative transfers. But I tell you what: I really didn’t want to be able to go for that run. I really didn’t want to be able to have that beer. I would have given up the chance to do any and all of those things (such as sushi etc) to be pregnant. I never thought that I would say it, but I almost wish I was nauseated if it meant that I had a little Yoshi growing inside of me (but, if I can do without that while pregnant, that would be awesome).

Everything Happens for a Reason

OH MY GOD NO. Don’t tell me that my hopes and dreams are crashing around me for a reason. That doesn’t help. I honestly can’t even go in to how offensive this statement is to someone going through infertility treatments.

Anything that has to do with referencing “real” children


Proceed with Caution: It took us X years but we have our baby (or that you know someone who does)

I say proceed with caution here because this very much depends on the person. While you may be endeavoring to offer hope, your benevolent offering might backfire into your face and instead lead to them only thinking about how this could take years, at best, or they might just not get lucky like you or your person you know did. I would say that it depends on your relationship with the person and what you know of them. Also, avoid this when they are receiving bad news. Right after something bad happens, you are going to be dealing with grief and catastrophizing; Let them heal a little bit, and then dip your toe into that water. 

Know an #Infertility Warrior? Avoid these comments! #TTC #InfertilityWarrior Click To Tweet

I know that some of what I am saying comes across as harsh, please know that I am well aware that this is a nearly impossible situation. That is why I wanted to offer some help! I’ll cover what you can say to those undergoing infertility treatments next week!

What is a sensitive subject that you never quite know how to handle?

Foot in mouth moments–we all have them! Share a funny example!

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