Talking to a Friend About Her Infertility

Tips and advice for supporting a friend or loved one through infertility

Talking to a Friend About Her Infertility

Infertility is an isolating experience. One of the hardest parts is seeing friends or loved ones conceive, while wondering if your own hopes for an unrealized family will come to fruition. Overwhelming emotions like shame and self-doubt are standard for a woman or couple experiencing fertility challenges.

One in every four couples--and one in every seven women--deal with infertility. If someone close to you is experiencing infertility (and with these numbers, there’s a good chance someone is), she will need guidance to help her through the distressing journey ahead. She will need the acceptance and support of her community, the compassion of her friends and the understanding of her family. Unfortunately, what I've seen in my 15 years of guiding women through the infertility process is that support is often missing.


Recently I was with a patient who told me that she only has her husband to talk to--and after several years of fertility treatments, he now seems ‘checked out’ when the subject comes up. She understands that he is dealing with their infertility in his own way, but she also feels like he is the only person she can confide in.

Many patients tell me that they only have a small handful of confidantes--oftentimes their partner, a therapist or perhaps a few close friends or family members. They feel isolated and like they are going to burden their few ‘fertility friends’--essentially, overwhelming some and hiding the truth from all others.

These women often feel alone during this stressful journey, yet have trouble connecting with others the way they did before. It’s an emotionally fragile time and they don’t want to be pitied. They don’t reach out to friends or family because they feel vulnerable. They are apprehensive of receiving unsolicited, and sometimes hurtful, advice.

Here are some things to keep in mind when trying to support a friend experiencing infertility.

Be careful with your advice. Advice usually comes from someone being uncomfortable, or wanting to help ‘fix’ the situation. “Just relax. I know it’ll happen for you. It’s just not the right time. You’re so young and you can always adopt. God only gives us what we can handle,” they say. While not meant to be unkind, a woman in the heartbreaking cycle of infertility might perceive these as insensitive, or even judgmental, observations. She is raw and fragile, and unless you have experienced infertility yourself, it is hard to explain just how deep those casual comments can cut.

Be a safe confidant. Women going through infertility will often negotiate or feel out who is safe to open up to...and who isn't. If, after sharing her most sincere and vulnerable truth about her infertility with someone close to her, she gets a “Just take a vacation and it’ll work” response, that person has likely been crossed off the Who-Will-Support-Me list in permanent marker. If a loved one opens up to you, take a step back before giving any opinions or advice. Remember that their infertility isn't something you personally can fix. Just be there for them, unobtrusively and authentically.

Listen. Compassionate listening is the first step towards supporting your loved ones facing infertility. Research has shown that going through fertility challenges and/or treatments is as psychologically (and sometimes, physically) stressful as getting a diagnosis of cancer, heart disease or HIV. It’s vital to have support during this time, and loving communication is key. Be sensitive and hold the space for your loved one to talk as much or as little as they want. If you aren't sure what their needs are, check in and simply ask them. Then, listen and really acknowledge their response. Praise them for their bravery and hold their hearts gently.

If you are pregnant, be sensitive to those around you. It might be too painful for a loved one to see your growing belly right now--honor that boundary (and trust that it is temporary). Let her know you are here for her, and you love her, but that you respect her needs. Or, if she has just had a pregnancy loss and doesn't want to come to your baby shower, accept that is okay to feel excited for yourself while feeling sad for someone close to you. Oftentimes, my patients tell me they aren't upset others are pregnant, they’re upset because they feel like they might never be, which can be difficult to communicate without feeling safe and supported.

If you find yourself holding your loved one’s hand as she experiences the ups and downs of fertility treatments, I invite you to simply listen to her while remaining compassionate and open. We can be a part of the change and use infertility as way to connect and experience greater intimacy with our loved ones.

Let’s take an isolating experience and use it as a catalyst for building stronger communities and healthier relationships--one woman and/or couple at a time.

Image source.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.


Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!


Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.


Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌


Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.


Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.


Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.


Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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