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You’re Pregnant and She’s Not: Helping a Friend Cope with Infertility

June 22, 2012

Morning sickness is behind you, you’ve seen your baby’s heartbeat, and you’re starting to tell everyone you know that you’re pregnant. Everyone from your parents and in-laws to your co-workers is thrilled, especially your mom friends who can’t wait for you to join the club! But if you have a friend who is struggling with infertility, it may be hard for her to hear your news, even if she is happy for you. When a friend is coming to terms with the fact that she may be unable to conceive, it’s important to take small measures to be sensitive to her situation, especially during your pregnancy. It’s common for tension to build when a friend cannot get pregnant and watches all of her friends have children, and a degree of empathy will buffer that tension and help an important friendship stay strong.

While talking with her about the baby’s gender and your nursery décor is OK, complaining about your pregnancy and its symptoms may not be welcome. While the discomfort, fatigue, and nausea sometimes requires a bit of venting to your mom friends or your husband, if your friend is having trouble conceiving, don’t put her in the position of having to comfort you over an experience she would gladly endure a bit of queasiness to experience!

Remember that your friend is likely talking to her doctor and probably a fertility specialist about the problems she and her partner are having. While it may feel like bits of advice are the only thing you can offer her right now, anecdotal advice is often frustrating when someone is going through a real medical issue. Many people may be telling her to “stop stressing out” because relaxing will help her to conceive. If her egg reserves are low or her partner’s sperm is not viable, relaxation or home remedies, unfortunately, will not solve her problem. What she needs right now may just be a bit of fun distraction or a shoulder to cry on. Don’t attempt to fix her problems yourself!

Understand that she is facing some important choices in her near future. Once she, her partner, and her doctors feel that she will not be able to conceive a child on her own, options such as IVF may be on the table. Couples unable to conceive must decide whether to choose infertility treatments, research adoption, or consider the idea of remaining childless. This is a highly personal decision and is dependent on a number of factors including your friend’s health and finances. Don’t push her to discuss the topic unless she brings it up. And if she talks about her options with you, be open to whatever she and her partner decide to do. This is likely a decision she never thought she would have to make, and having the support of her friends will make her feel better about her choices.

Infertility is a difficult and private subject for most people, and your pregnancy may bring up conversations and emotions that wouldn’t otherwise come to the surface. A little bit of sensitivity and understanding, and the ability to think before you speak, will come in handy as you support your friend.

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