How to Support Someone with Fertility Problems
It’s Fertility Week in the UK! Wooohoo! I'm not sure why I'm woo-hooing, other than this week gives me even more reason to talk about my fave topic: FERTILITY! And namely: how to get through a fertility struggle/ fertility journey/ fertility problem. And do you know what? I'm becoming more and more aware that it's not all down to the people actually going through it. A lot of it is down to you dear reader...you. The friends, family, employer, colleague.
So many are affected and yet going through fertility problems or miscarriage is still shrouded with shame, stigma and silence.
Here are some numbers which boggle my mind (it doesn't take much).
3.5 million people in the UK are affected. If we imagine (and go with me on this for a second) each of those people have three others who are close to them – a parent, a friend, a sibling- then that’s 10.5 million indirectly affected and a whopping great honking stonking 14 million people in this country who are either directly or indirectly impacted by someone’s struggle to bring home a baby right now. That's almost a quarter (21%!) of our entire population. So even if there is a bit of crossover on these numbers, it's actually still a pretty low estimate. I mean, most of us have more than one mate for example...
Stats aside, this is the bottom line: a hell of a lot of people are seriously affected by fertility struggles and if we don't talk more about it, it can break down relationships and create devastating isolation between family members. I know, because I get messages every single day from people who follow me on social media, sharing their stories.
I hope the following provides a taster so you can learn more, but here are just a few pointers to help you know how to support someone trying to get pregnant:
PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES
1) Consider texting instead of calling or announcing proudly at a celebratory dinner if you find out you are pregnant when you know your friend/sibling is struggling. It leaves the ball in their park and means you have given thought and awareness to their current situation. This means the world to the person going through it and respects their circumstances. Of course you deserve joy and should be proud and excited with your happy news, but empathy really helps here.
ASK IF THEY'RE ALRIGHT
2) Following on from this, if someone has announced a pregnancy in your friendship group, family or at work; and you know someone struggling, you could message them to ask how they are doing; if they want to talk, or just offer to be there. It helps to know someone is thinking of you, while most of the attention is directed at the mum or dad to be. If they don't want to engage, don't push it - it's really nice to just offer.
OFFER TO BE THERE
3) If your friend/daughter/son/sibling has confided in you and you know they are going for treatment soon then ask them how much they want to talk about it and if you can help by going with them to appointments. Just being there is pretty brill. Understanding how difficult it is goes a very long way to make that person feel supported.
SUPPORT THEIR CHOICES
4) People trying to conceive may do all manner of things that you think are a bit over the top or won't do anything to help. Here's an example: if your friend/daughter/son/sibling has decided to change their diet or lifestyle to enhance their fertility, please support them in this choice. If they are not drinking or they're cutting out gluten/sugar/dairy and consuming mountains of spinach and eggs (!), they’ve probably done this after a lot of research and advice from experts. One of the kindest things people did for me was gifting me sugar-free chocolate (I cut out sugar) or new recipe books which I’d talked about. This was so thoughtful and made me feel so supported.
LEARN WHAT NOT TO SAY
5) Try not to offer advice, tell them about people you know who have had success, or assume anything about their feelings day to day. You can read more about what not to say here. Just by reading articles like this, listening to a few episodes of a podcast like mine The TTC Life Raft, and educating yourself a little bit really will help them to feel you are there.
SEND THEM SOMETHING NICE!
6) Send them stuff if they're going through a particularly rough time (a failed round of fertility treatment, news of another pregnancy, miscarriage, milestones after loss) or just out of the blue. Presents/ cards/ flowers are always good! Aim for sensitivity, empower yourself with knowledge and don't turn up with a bottle of fizz if they're trying not to drink - but if you know they ARE, by all means go round with the Prosecco and Maltesers or even better, go over and offer to cook! Always a winner in my book.
If you want to learn more about how to support someone trying to get pregnant, come and find me on social media (Instagram , Facebook , Twitter ) where I share ways to cope for people going through it and visit Fertility Network UK who are doing fantastic work this week, raising awareness and helping to change the conversation around this. It would also really help if you shared this article so a few more of that 14 million might see it.