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What Not to Say to Someone Trying to Conceive

Sarah Preston Gorenstein

This list of verbal blunders may seem like a no-brainer, but you never really know what someone is going through behind closed doors. Even someone who conceived naturally once, like me, can be struggling to conceive baby no. 2. Chances are, if you come across a woman in her mid-ahem-to-late thirties with a 2-plus-year-old, she’s probably trying to conceive another child sooner rather than later. (Not always, but you can never be too sure.)

Women and men suffering from infertility want support from family and friends—just knowing they’re there for you is usually enough. Support in the form of understanding, not necessarily advice (or judgment), is all anyone can ask for, since no two infertility diagnoses are the same. And no two people have walked in the same infertility shoes.

Early on in our TTC journey with no. 2, I came across a few instances of well meaning friends and acquaintances that unintentionally said something that struck a chord and hit a little too close to home for me, especially because of what I was going through. Granted, all the hormones can make you a little extra sensitive, and they certainly didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but here are a few phrases to stay away from:

“I didn’t know if I should tell you I was pregnant because I didn’t want to make you feel bad.”

Believe it or not, keeping this news from someone going through infertility, or trying to conceive, might actually make her feel worse. Women in my position don’t want to be treated differently. I can only speak for myself, but hearing a friend is pregnant is about the best news I can get at this point—it gives me hope. I can count about 8 friends who are pregnant right now and I couldn’t be happier for each one of them. And I can’t wait to hold their babies in my arms.

“You just need to relax.”

If only it were that simple. The big myth about stress playing a key role in infertility is just that—a myth—at least according to some doctors I’ve spoken to about it. Keeping stress at bay during this process can only help you, but that’s a lot easier said than done, since the process itself is very stressful.

“Aren’t you glad you don’t have to deal with this?”

This meaning two (or more) crazy kids. Nope, not glad at all.

“He’ll always have his cousins to play with…”

While we appreciate Preston’s cousins and friends, whom he loves dearly, that’s not a replacement for siblings. This comment, while it has good intentions, can make the person feel like others have given up hope before she has.

“You think it’s hard now? How are you going to handle two?"

Whether you’re going through infertility, or just trying to conceive, this does not come off as supportive. No one who is going the extra mile to take shots every night and pump themselves up with hormones needs to hear how much harder life is with two kids versus one (or one versus none)—we’re well aware and yet we’re still willing to put ourselves through this.

“Don’t think about it so much.”

This also falls into the “just relax” category. Telling someone who’s trying to conceive, especially if they’re going through infertility, to not think about it, is like telling a mother not to care for her child. It’s impossible. And it’s pretty much all you can think about when you’re in the middle of it.

The best thing you can do for a friend going through infertility is to lend your ear or simple support. Even if you can’t relate to what she’s going through, just reaching out to let her know you’re thinking about her goes such a long way during this difficult time.

It wasn’t until recently that I started opening up about my own infertility struggles—but once people started finding out, the outreach was amazing. People I haven’t spoken to since high school or college (or in some cases, camp!) reached out to lend their support and it has meant the world to me.

Just knowing that the people in your life understand what you’re going through can help you feel less isolated. Don’t ever second-guess whether or not you should reach out to a friend—it’s never a bad idea. Infertility is not something anyone should feel ashamed of; it’s a lot more common than most people realize.

Here are some things you can say:

  • “I’m here for you if you need to talk or ever need anything.”
  • “It’s going to happen, don’t give up hope.”
  • “You’re doing a great job handling everything.”
  • “I wish there was something I could say to help.”
  • “Just remember: It’s all worth it in the end.”
  • “I’m thinking about you…”

What are some of the things people have said to you while trying to conceive that have hurt, or helped?