According to the CDC, 1 in 5 women have trouble conceiving after one year of trying, and 1 in 4 have difficulty both getting pregnant and carrying to term. So yeah, someone you know is probably dealing—or has dealt—with infertility. For those who want children, it can be painful, expensive, emotionally taxing and isolating. As a friend or family member, you can show up for them by asking what they need. Some people might want the space to talk about their experiences. Others might ask you to distract them by not bringing it up. Either way, no matter what you do, here are nine things you should definitely not say to someone who tells you they’re dealing with infertility.
1. “Just adopt!”
Minimizing the desire for a genetic child is a theme that people in this position hear a lot. For many, there is a deep grieving process with letting go of the idea of not having their own biological children. For others, it’s only one of several avenues worth pursuing. So while adoption can be a beautiful thing, it is not a solution or backup plan. Unless your friend/sibling/coworker specifically brought up that they are considering adoption in the face of infertility, suggesting a process as legally, financially, emotionally and bureaucratically complex as adoption can seem flippant—to your friend as well as to adoption triads. Plus, we guarantee they’ve heard it before.
2. “I’ll be your egg donor or surrogate!”
Maybe this rolls off your tongue with good intentions. But are you really willing to go through all the appointments—needles and all—to transfer your eggs, carry a child to term and/or deal with potential medical complications? Are you prepared to wildly complicate your relationship legally, financially and emotionally for the rest of your life? Offering your uterus or genetic material is not something to say because you’re not sure what else to say. It also, again, diminishes their grief of not having their own genetic child. Finally, don’t assume it’s a female reproductive problem—you never know what a couple is dealing with.
3. “You’re a hero—I could never deal with all the needles and shots.”
A seemingly well-intentioned statement meant to put your friend on a pedestal—but then you cut her legs off with that dig about how you could never go through it yourself. Are you also dealing with infertility? If not, you don’t need to editorialize what you think about her journey. Recognize your friend’s strength by giving her the space to express how she feels about her experience.
4. “Stop trying so hard, and it will happen!”
It’s cool that your favorite momfluencer “stopped living in fear” and finally got pregnant, but no need to share the post with your bud dealing with infertility. After all, infertility is a medical condition that requires medical intervention. Would you tell someone with a fever to just chill out?
5. “Being pregnant is horrible anyways.”
Your pregnancy sucked—you were nauseous and vomiting the entire time and your brain essentially shut down to half-mast. You deserve a chance to work through how hard pregnancy was on your body and mind. But save it for a different conversation; to a person dealing with infertility, a statement like this can feel like a thousand knives.
6. “Kids are horrible—take one of mine!”
A bad joke that’s more like a slap in the face. And c’mon—no one buys that you actually want to give up little Ricky just because he isn’t taking to potty training. (OK, fine, we will give it to you that he is annoying AF.)
7. “People without kids have so much more fun.”
Just think of all the vacations you could take without thinking twice about childcare! A villa in Tuscany. A chateau in Provence. A chartered yacht off the coast of Thailand. Traveling is great. Not having responsibilities can feel amazing. But for people with infertility who want children, freedom is not a consolation prize.
8. “Good thing you already have one!”
Just because your friend has conceived and given birth to a child already doesn’t mean infertility won’t be an issue anymore. In some cases, as with secondary infertility, it can even arise after having no complications at all. And as much as your friend loves their first child or children, they may still be grieving future kids they thought would come easily.
9. “If you’re trying to get pregnant, should you really be drinking?”
It’s honestly just not any of your business. Infertility can be a mental and physical rollercoaster. It’s safe to assume your friend knows when their pregnancy window is, so leave the judgment at the door—and buy the lady a drink, for crying out loud.