Coping with Infertility can be extremely difficult for the family and friends of the couple going through infertility. As with any crisis it is difficult to know what to say. Because infertility is such a sensitive topic it is important to understand what you can and cannot say.
Let's start with what doesn't help, because the more you continue to say the wrong thing inadvertently, the deeper the rift will be between you and the couple. There is a universal list of No-No's that most infertile couples agree on. The following do's and don'ts should help you support the individual or couple who is struggling with infertility.
Don't Try to minimize the problem by saying, "Don't worry. At least you have each other and don't have cancer."
Do Listen to what the couple has to say about their experience and express empathy for their difficulties.
Don't Tell a couple who has had a miscarriage that it wasn't meant to be or that you know that they will be pregnant again soon and it will work the next time.
Do Realize that the couple has just lost a specific potential child who will never come again, no matter how wonderful the next pregnancy may be. Acknowledge how sad they must feel. Use the words "loss and sorrow"; don't be afraid to use the words that probably describe how the couple must feel.
Don't Give medical advice or doctor referrals without being asked or hearing the couple say they are looking for new information or referrals.
Do Tell the couple know that you'll be happy to listen to any details they want to share with you and that you would like to offer support during any procedures by a phone call or by offering to go with them to a medical appointment.
Don't Assume that new medical breakthroughs you read about in the paper will solve the couple's problems. The breakthrough announced by the news media may be irrelevant and if it is relevant, chances are the couple has seen the article and their medical team is knowledgeable about it.
Do Ask the couple if there are any books or articles that you could read to understand what they are going through medically.
Don't Expect the couple to act happy about attending baby showers, christenings and other family events that feature pregnant women and new babies.
Do Give them plenty of opportunity to decide whether to attend an event or whether to come late or leave early. They will not feel the need to avoid babies forever, but less contact right now may be a necessary part of their healing process.
Don't Start a discussion about infertility without paying attention to timing and to the couple's openness.
Do Choose a time when the couple's privacy is assured and ask the couple if they would like to talk. Couples experiencing infertility often feel out of control. Your letting them choose whether and when to talk about it gives them back some control.
Don't Assume that it is fine if you talk to your son's wife or your daughter's husband about their situation.
Do Respect the privacy needs of each individual and do not assume that they both want to talk about it with you.
Don't Offer unsolicited stories about others who have been successful at treatment or adoption.
Do Tell them if they are ever interested you could put them in touch with a couple willing to talk about their infertility experience or adoption process. Let them decide whether they want to pursue that information. As a parent, family member, or friend, you want to make it better for the couple, to take away the pain. But probably the greatest gift you can give your loved one or friend is to be a listener, a sounding board. Instead of erasing the pain, you can diminish it by your caring. One of the hardest questions to ask someone is, "How can I help you?" It is such a difficult question because you should be prepared for their answer and not the answer that you think they will say or should say. To ask that question and to trust the response that you hear is a powerful step in your efforts to help the couple struggling with this kind of crisis.