Fertility struggles are a daunting journey!
Although it may be a rollercoaster of emotions it is not a journey that you need to go through on your own.
We asked former and current fertility treatment patients what they think equals great help or support during the process and this article covers some tips based on what we learned from them, and general pointers for supporting a friend, family member or colleague through their fertility journey.
What this article covers:
Understanding what IVF might look like
What you should do
What you shouldn’t do
What you shouldn’t say
On the flip side of this, if you have ever had a friend, family member or co-worker undergo fertility treatment such as IVF, you might have thought about what you should [or shouldn’t] say or do and maybe even got a little worried about it to the point of not saying anything.
That’s understandable, but something we want to try to avoid happening, as it can increase people’s feelings of isolation during a difficult time.
To be honest, there is no clearcut answer here as to how each person may individually want or need help.
However, there are a few general guidelines that can help guide how you approach supporting someone through fertility treatments like IVF or egg freezing:
Understand What The IVF Journey Might Look Like
Many people having trouble conceiving naturally may turn to clinical fertility treatments.
Part of the difficulty in undergoing these is the new terminology, the sense of experiencing something that others might not quite fully understand.
When family and friends are uncertain about what the process actually is, or what it involves, it can widen the gulf between the person or couple experiencing it and their support networks.
If a friend or family member is undergoing treatment, it’s a good idea to get to grips with the basics of what their treatment might involve, to remove any room for misunderstandings and to be able to talk to them about various aspects (if they want to).
Fast Facts About IVF
1. What You Should Do
Take Note Of Important Dates
While you are talking, if your friend does mention an important date, for example, her transfer day or her next appointment - try to make a note of this.
When the day does come around, she may appreciate a message or a quick phone call wishing her luck.
If you think that she might not want to talk about it - you don’t need to ask how the appointment went.
A simple card, a bunch of flowers or chocolate will let her know that you are thinking of her and that she is not alone.
Let Them Open Up In Their Own Time - Sometimes All They Need Is Someone To Listen
This particular piece of advice actually applies to all situations in life but in particular in this context. Often, when someone starts to open up to you, you might feel the urge to add your two cents or give them your advice, but at times it’s best to practice good listening, let them know that you are there for them.
Especially, someone going through infertility, they probably have all the medical advice they need from their fertility team, so if they're venting to you, they probably just need their safe space, someone who can just be there to let them know that their pain is real, what they're going through is tough and that you're always there for them whenever they need emotional support.
“We don’t expect you to have answers for us. Heck, we’ve spent countless nights doing all the googling ourselves and we still don’t know 1/100 of it all. We just need someone there to listen.” - @Zanetka
2. Ask Them If They Need Anything
First and foremost, it is important to help someone understand that asking for help and support from their friends and family is completely okay.
If you’re really not sure how to support your friend, just ask. Try to be specific instead of just saying, “Well, let me know how I can help.”
This may make them feel like a burden.
Instead, ask when you can drop by with takeout. Ask if she’d like to go to a movie or even just go out for a quick cup of coffee at your favourite cafe.
Let her know that you can be there for her in the way she needs, and if she doesn’t explicitly tell you what that is, just keep showing up— when she is ready, she will ask for help.
3. Send A Care Package
We turned to social media and asked women who have or are, undergoing IVF treatment what they would have liked in a care package from friends or family, this is what they had to say:
Catherin Baker @cattbaker
Putting together a care package for a friend is a great way to show support! A few generic ideas to include are fuzzy socks to keep her feet warm, decaf coffee, a key chain or bracelet as well as a book about hope or this nifty IVF planner. She highly recommends adding in an ice pack or two as this is a go-to for anyone undergoing IVF. Zanetka @Zanetka
Some of the most thoughtful gifts she received from her friends were a gratitude journal, fertility bracelet, a mug that had a fertility message on it & a little personalized IVF medication bag.
4. What You Shouldn’t Do?
Schedule and invite them to activities that might make them feel uncomfortable
You may have the very best intentions but a friend or family member undergoing IVF might have made some lifestyle changes to improve their chances of a successful cycle.
Giving up alcohol might be a big one! Inviting your friend to happy hour might seem like a good idea, it may however have just the opposite effect and make her feel like she’s missing out.
Nobody is saying stop inviting someone places, but just try to be a little thoughtful of where she may prefer meeting up.
Instead of a big night out, could you book a mani and pedi or suggest brunch to catch up and try to take her mind off of it?
Of course, someone may want to blow off steam or keep going with their ‘normal’ life, especially after receiving some disappointing news.
The key is: ask, listen, be flexible, and be open to your meet-ups looking a little different than they might usually.
Don’t Assume That They Would Rather Not Hear About Your Pregnancy Or Kids
In an effort to protect friends with infertility issues, sometimes people attempt to keep a new pregnancy secret. This probably isn’t a good idea, as it might even lead to your friend feeling ostracized.
Instead, if you are planning a big pregnancy reveal at a barbeque or night out and you know that your friend is undergoing treatment, you may want to consider letting her know what your intentions are beforehand and this might be difficult for her.
Your friend is still happy for you, she wants to celebrate with you but an unexpected announcement might not be the best idea.
5. What You Shouldn’t Say To A Friend Undergoing IVF
Adoption may be a wonderful option for some, but it definitely inst the answer to everyone’s fertility struggles. Suggesting adoption to a friend undergoing IVF in a very nonchalant way may actually come across as rude [even though this was not your intention].
Suggesting adoption may make your friend feel as if you have lost hope that her IVF cycle will be successful.
A key factor to always remember is that often people undergoing any form of fertility treatment have the fear and constant thought in their mind that they may not be able to have biological children.
Adoption is a beautiful way of building the family you have always dreamed of, but it isn’t for everyone.
‘Trust Me, You’re Lucky You Don’t Have Kids’
We have all gone out to dinner and have sat at a table next to a screaming baby or toddler throwing food everywhere, lets not even start with the 6-hour flight with a crying baby!
We all know that babies cry and puke EVERYWHERE. We all know that children are loud and messy. We all know that your life changes drastically when you have children.
But DON’T downplay your friends’ situation by making your blessing sound like a curse. For the longest time, all they have wanted is that crying baby or messy toddler.
‘Whatever You Do, Don’t Give Up’
Although this seems like a reassuring thing to say, it, unfortunately, isn't. The main issue with this statement is that it sounds inevitable that things will work out in the end.
The truth, unfortunately, is they may not
The other problem with this statement is it implies "giving up" isn't an option.
Deciding to stop treatment, or even deciding not to pursue treatments at all, is sometimes not even a choice that people going through treatment can make for themselves.
The costs associated with IVF very quickly pile up and the reality is that many people simply can’t afford multiple cycles.
Don’t Talk About Stress Being The Driving Factor Behind Their Struggles With Fertility
We have all heard this numerous times before: “Stop stressing, it will happen when it’s meant to happen”
This is probably one of the WORST things you could possibly say to someone who is undergoing any sort of fertility treatment.
Contrary to what you might have read or heard, stress IS NOT the cause of most peoples struggles with fertility.
Although stress levels and mental health, in particular, need to be addressed and taken care of especially when dealing with any medical condition.
Next time you tell your friend or co-worker to “just relax” be mindful of the context and how you might make them feel.
Don’t Keep On Asking How It’s Going
No one wants to feel like a charity case. Check-in often, but not so much that it’s obvious you’re worried or concerned about her.
And when you do check-in, unless she wants to talk about something, in particular, talk about the latest celebrity gossip, your latest binge-watch on Netflix, or the book you have just read, or maybe ask about other aspects of their life, like their career. There is still more to her life than her IVF treatment.
When you are feeling so encapsulated with one thing, it is often nice to have someone take your mind off of it, even if it is for a really short period of time.
Supporting a friend, co-worker, family member or partner through IVF is never easy, there's no right or wrong answer. An ELANZA coach can help support, guide and hold space during an IVF journey.
ELANZA coaches are specially trained to provide you with a framework that allows you to peel away the pressures from society, relationships, family, etc. to help you make choices that help you feel clarity and confidence in your future.
You might just realize how much an ELANZA coach can do for your entire life...
Treat a friend and book a coaching session with one of our expertly trained coaches.