A note to the fecund: What to say to your sub/infertile friends

For those not drenched in a history of the biological sciences:

fecund – producing or capable of producing offspring, fruit, vegetation, etc., in abundance; fruitful: fecund parents; fecund farmland.

So you have a friend struggling to get pregnant?  Here’s a primer of what to say, and, importantly, what not to say.

This is based on my experience, and from what I have heard from other friends who are struggling,  or have struggled, with sub/infertility. It may not be true for everyone.

What to Say

  • I am so sorry you are going through this, it must be so hard.  (Then listen to her, try not to judge or offer advice – see below)
  • Wanna go get a drink/pedicure/see a movie?

What NOT to say

  • Relax! We sub/infertile women get this all the freakin’ time.  And it is frustrating, and not very relaxing to hear this.  Here are some facts – While extreme stress can cause anovulation in certain circumstances, normal, everyday stress from being an involved human being  is not going to regularly stop a woman from releasing/implanting an egg.  Even if stress plays a part of your friends sub/infertility, it’s likely not a big part.  Please, don’t tell us to relax.
  • Stop Trying! Honestly, this is infuriating.  We know you mean well, and your cousin got pregnant when they stopped trying… (by the way, the little stories about the people you know are not all that easy to hear either.  Again, I know you mean to be inspiring…)  Here’s the thing – most people that consider themselves sub/infertile can’t stop.  On top of that, the likelihood that they will conceive when not being conscience of their fertile times is even lower.  So the advice, well probably well intentioned, is illogical.
  • Maybe your not having sex at the right time.  I seriously got this from an accidentally pregnant friend.  (Ironic?) It has been rubbing me the wrong way for almost a year now…  Insinuating that a sub/infertile woman is unaware of when she is ovulating is a real insult.  We know EXACTLY where we are in our cycles.  EXACTLY.   (Especially those of us with regular cycles – this is slightly less true with those with irregular ovulation – but even then, they know in retrospect, and know if they made love at the right time.)  In fact, any insinuation that a woman doesn’t know or isn’t aware of what is going on with her cycle can be offensive – even if it is true.
  • You will get pregnant soon enough. You don’t know this.  It is certainly possible that they won’t.  And it sort-a feels like you are shushing us, or saying that none of this really matters, it will be over soon.  But this is a really big deal to us, and we worry every day that it won’t happen.   And you being to sure about it is not usually helpful.

I cold keep going, but I think I illustrated my point – my point being that the very best thing you can do for your friend is to understand, to listen, and to continue being their friend – even though it may be hard to be around her right now.  And offering advice, suggestions,  stories, antidotes, and hypothesis is not helpful.  We know we aren’t as much fun as we used to be.  And we can’t wait ’til we can be the fun-lovin’ lady we were before this hit us.  And we’ll get there – just try and understand.  We really appreciate it.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Rachel on April 1, 2011 at 4:21 PM

    More irritating? My sister who has never been diagnosed with any fertility problems of any kind but wasn’t getting pregnant. (I have severe PCOS). In fact, after 2 years of “trying” she HADN’T EVEN SEEN A DOCTOR but cried every month when she got her period and told people she was infertile. I asked her if she was ovulating (she had no clue…yes, I am bitter…can you imagine a day without obsessing about ovulation/fertility issues like that?) and I made her go pee on a stick. This was in January. She is now 8 weeks pregnant. So, not only was she really having sex at the wrong time, but now she is convinced that IF SHE OVERCAME INFERTILITY I CAN TOO. It’s hard to handle idiots.


  2. I’m not a fan of people saying “Have you thought of adoption?” I don’t get offended because they mean well, but it kind of gets under my skin. A good friend of ours flippantly asked me today if we have thought about a sperm donor. Then he asked if we would do a surrogate. It was the way he said it that really bugged me. I just think people are clueless. I try not to let things bug me, but this is such a sensitive subject for me. We have had 3 miscarriages in a row (I thank God every day that we do have a son) and it has been rough. This friend said, “my wife will be your surrogate, she loves being pregnant”. MY BODY IS NOT A FAILURE. Anyway, I just needed to vent.


  3. […] It takes courage to talk about your fertility problems with friends and family. Friends and family also need courage – to be able to provide empathy, but not unwanted advice, judgments, or pity. What can you say to support a fertility challenged loved one? And what should you absolutely not say? Learn more here. […]


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