How to Discuss Infertility With People
When it comes to infertility, everyone’s story is different. As you go through this journey, the people in your life typically want to be there to support you. Still, even the most well-intentioned people, whether they be friends, relatives, or coworkers, can feel like too much when you’re going through the difficult emotions that come with infertility. A seemingly simple question might violate your fragile boundaries and bring you to tears. A casual catch-up over coffee might inevitably lead to chats about your fertility, leaving you feeling overwhelmed or unsure how to talk about what you’re going through. If you’re facing difficulties with fertility, miscarriage, or pregnancy loss – know that we are so sorry. You deserve all the support you can get during this time, but sometimes the people in your life don’t know how to navigate the conversation. Although the responsibility shouldn’t be on you, you might have to lead the conversation in a way that you’re comfortable with. We’re here to offer some guidance on just how to do that.
Check in With Yourself
Before you start talking to the people around you about your difficulties with fertility, it’s helpful to check in with yourself to see how much you actually want to share, and who you want to share it with. Even after checking in with yourself, you might find that things change in the moment. You may have thought you were comfortable talking about a certain part of your journey, then when it’s brought up, you realize that you’re not ready. On the other hand, you might have thought you had a certain boundary, but when talking to someone you feel comfortable or even comforted by sharing with them. You’re human, experiencing a very human journey. It’s normal if your needs and comfort levels change from day to day and between different people.
Checking in with yourself is the first step to figuring out your boundaries. It’s ok to not give everyone access to your emotions and your journey. That’s what boundaries are for. Boundaries are the lines you set with different people to preserve your energy. Your boundaries are going to be different for different people and in various settings. Obviously, you’ll be much more willing to open up to close friends than people from work.
You can set boundaries by communicating them clearly by saying things like:
- “I’m feeling too fragile to talk about this right now, but I will when I’m ready.”
- “I appreciate you checking in with me, but I need some space for the time being.”
Boundaries aren’t just set through words, but through actions as well. It’s ok to take time for yourself, or just to be with certain people. Being around people can be comforting, but it can also be draining when you’re going through fertility issues. It’s ok to take space to just be with your closest people right now.
Offer Other Resources
Some people might want more information about your health and specifics around infertility. It might be out of curiosity, their own journey, or their way of connecting with you. If you feel open to talking about these questions, then by all means go ahead, if not – that’s fine. One way you can help field these questions is by having resources to send to them so that you don’t have to answer these questions yourself. A great way to handle more medical questions is “I appreciate your curiosity, but I’m not in a place to talk about these details right now. I’m happy to send some resources your way to help answer your questions.”
Here are some resources you can send them:
- Intimina’s pregnancy section of our blog
- American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG)
- Evidence-Based Birth
Let Yourself Be Supported
Sometimes it’s hard to let ourselves be supported during our most difficult times. It’s ok if you need some personal space, but it’s also important to let yourself be supported by the people that care about you, and that you feel most comfortable. If they are doing things to offer support or help make your life easier while you’re going through this, it’s because they genuinely want to help. It’s ok to let that help in. Community is one of the most important tools humans have to get through hard times. Remember who your community is, and allow yourself to be supported by them.
Talking With a Loved One Who is Experiencing Infertility
On the other hand, you might have a loved one who needs support during their fertility journey and are wondering how to talk about it with them. Here are some tips on talking with a loved one who is dealing with infertility.
- Respect their boundaries: If they’ve set clear boundaries, seem hesitant to talk about their journey, or change the subject, these are boundaries that are important to respect. Overstepping them can negatively affect their emotional health and your relationship.
- Offer support: You can let them know that you’re there for them whenever they want to discuss their journey, without putting any pressure on them.
- Acts of service: Another way to support your loved one without necessarily talking about what’s going on is to make their life a little easier. You can do this by dropping meals off at their home, tidying up their home when you come over, and offering to take care of simple errands.
Infertility is a heartbreaking journey and can be difficult to talk about whether it’s you or a loved one who’s experiencing it. Be gentle with yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for support, or reach out to a friend who needs yours. For more information on infertility, you can read about reproductive loss for LGBTQ+ people, ectopic pregnancy, and grief after an abortion.
Natasha (she/her) is a full-spectrum doula and health+wellness copywriter. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, health, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more education and empowerment. You can connect with Natasha on IG @natasha.s.weiss.