Fertility etiquette

By Juliana Kassianos, Transformational Coach, Yoga Teacher and Founder of The School of Fertility

If you know someone who’s struggling to conceive, has had a miscarriage, has secondary infertility or is going through IVF, try to be sensitive with the wording you use if you’re talking to them about their fertility struggles. It may be hard for you to understand, but don't underestimate the impact it's having on them. They're likely to feel both emotionally and physically drained, as it takes over their life and threatens to shatter their dreams. Here are some common phrases that can touch a nerve and some suggestions for how to act instead.

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DON'T SAY THESE TO ANYONE WHO'S TRYING TO CONCEIVE:

  • “Any news this month?”

  • “Just relax and it’ll happen”

  • “How old are you?”

  • “I just had to look at my husband and we got pregnant”

  • “How often are you having sex?”

  • “You’re so lucky you get to have sex all the time”

  • “I hated being pregnant”

  • “I bet you’ll get pregnant on holiday”

  • “You want it too much. You can’t force these things”

  • “This fertility stuff is taking over your mind! You need a distraction”

  • “It will happen when it’s meant to happen”

  • “Can’t you just do IVF?”

  • "We got pregnant and we weren't even properly trying"

  • “Are you praying?”

  • "Women like you who put their career first, often regret it"

  • "These things take time"

  • “Mine were accidents"

  • “Do you think this has something to do with your abortion?”

  • “Everything happens for a reason"

  • “Enjoy your freedom whilst you can”

  • “How hard can it be to get pregnant?”

  • “You need to be in better shape”

  • “Everything happens when it’s supposed to”

  • “If I can get pregnant, you can!”

  • “Time’s ticking!”

  • “Trust me, you’re lucky you don’t have kids”

  • “Maybe you’re not meant to be parents”

  • “You’re so young; you’ve got plenty of time to have kids”

  • “How long have you been trying for?”

  • “Babysit my kids and you’ll change your mind"

  • “Whose fault is it; yours or his?”

  • “I got pregnant straight away with all my children”

  • “Does your husband shoot blanks?”

  • “Things could be worse, you could have cancer”

  • “You’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with… pregnancy symptoms”

  • “It’ll happen once you stop trying”

  • “You can always adopt”

  • "You should quit your job and focus on getting pregnant"

  • “I know exactly what you’re going through”

  • “Are you doing fertility treatment?”

  • “You can take one of mine”

  • “Your eggs are probably old”

  • “Maybe it’s for the best”

  • “Are you pregnant yet?”

  • “Maybe you’ve been too focussed on your career”

  • “When are you going to have IVF?”

  • “Why don’t you just get a pet?”

  • “Think of all the children in the world who need parents”

  • “Have you thought about not having kids?”

  • “I know someone who…”

  • “You should be grateful for what you do have”

  • “Maybe it’s because of your past lifestyle”

  • “You’re lucky, my kids drive me mad”

  • “You need to lose weight/put on weight”

  • “Have you tried…?”

  • “You shouldn’t stress about it, stress only makes it worse”

  • “Did you hear that so and so is pregnant?”

  • “Maybe it’s God’s will”

  • “At least you get to have fun trying”

  • "Just keeping having regular sex, it'll happen"

  • “Maybe it's the universe's way of telling you, you’re not meant to have kids"

  • "You should try and get pregnant soon. You don't have much time left"

DON'T SAY THESE TO ANYONE WHO'S HAD A MISCARRIAGE:

  • “At least you miscarried early on in your pregnancy”

  • “It’s so common”

  • “At least you know you can get pregnant”

  • “It happened for a reason”

  • "Now you have an angel looking down on you"

  • “Maybe your eggs are too old”

  • “It's better than having a baby born with problems”

  • "Did you do something to cause it?"

  • "It's God's will"

  • "You'll be fine"

  • "I understand what you're going through"

  • “Don't worry – I'm sure you'll get pregnant again straight away”

  • "You didn't know the baby at least"

  • "In my day, we just got on with things"

  • "You can always try for another"

  • "You need to get over it"

  • "Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

  • "It wasn't a real baby, just a foetus"

  • "It's nature's way"

  • "Your going to try again, right?"

  • "Have you been cleared to have sex again?"

  • “Maybe it just means you aren't ready for a baby yet”

  • "You know, it's not the end of the World"

  • "Was it even planned?"

  • "It's for the best"

  • "There must have been something wrong"


DON'T SAY THESE TO ANYONE WHO HAS SECONDARY INFERTILITY:

  • “That’s what happens when you wait so long to have another”

  • “You already have a child, you should be happy with the one you’ve got”

  • “Just be thankful that you have one”

  • “Focus on the one you have”

  • "Don't worry, you got pregnancy before so it'll happen again"

  • "It's all part of God's plan"

  • "Did you hear [insert name] is pregnant?"

  • "Everything happens for a reason"

  • "It will all work out in the end"

  • "Why are you putting your family through this?"

  • “Well at least you have [insert name]”


DON'T SAY THESE TO ANYONE WHO'S HAVING IVF:

  • "If it's meant to be, It'll be"

  • "Did you try it naturally first?"

  • "Why don't you just adopt?"

  • “Doesn’t IVF cost loads of money?”

  • "Whose fault is it?"

  • “My friend tried four rounds of IVF and then conceived naturally”

  • "Ugh, I couldn't do all those injections"

  • "Have you tried..."

  • "What if it doesn't work?"

  • "OMG, what if you get pregnant with twins"

  • "You're resorting to IVF, oh dear"

  • "Put two back, so if one doesn't work you have the other"


INSTEAD TRY THE FOLLOWING:

  • Acknowledge how hard it must be for them and that you're sorry their having to go through it

  • Let them know that although you don't understand what they're going through, that you care

  • Be empathetic and sensitive to their feelings

  • Listen without judging or offering advice

  • Let them know that you're there for them, no matter how long it takes

  • Ask if there's anything you can do to help

  • Let them know that they deserve the family of their dreams

  • Ask open-ended questions like "How are you doing?"

  • Offer them a hug and shoulder to cry on

  • Be available if they need distractions

  • Take into account their partner’s feelings too

  • Invite them out now and again

  • Cut them some slack if they forget meet-ups or special days

  • If you have pregnancy news, break it to them gently

  • Check in with them now and again

  • Give them support on Mother’s/Father’s day birthdays, Christmas and due dates that were to have been

  • Treat them to a massage or pampering session

  • Offer to attend appointments or watch their children

  • Give them space when they need it

  • Be prepared to stay off topic until they're ready to talk

  • Send them something thoughtful in the post to remind them of how loved and supported they are


Juliana Kassianos