No matter the reason or the source of the issue, infertility is a difficult problem for any woman to face, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
And it can be compounded when well-meaning, well-intentioned people who want to help say the wrong thing.
Coming from a place of experience, I’d like to share this little list with you in order to help you should you ever feel the need to encourage a woman who’s dealing with this issue.
This list is meant to educate and encourage women who are struggling with any form of infertility and those who want to help, encourage, and love them through it.
Here’s my top 6 list of what NOT to say:
6. Getting pregnant is so easy!
Must be nice. My husband says that ‘must be nice’ is my go-to response for everything, but the other day when I was talking to an acquaintance about our struggles with infertility and she commented that she got pregnant while on birth control, I held my tongue. (Actually, I bit it. I know she didn’t mean for it to come out the way it did.) Some people can get pregnant by just being in the same room with their spouse, it seems, but for some of us, it’s not so easy. So we’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t rub it in that you’ve had 18 children in the past 5 years and gotten pregnant each time while using 10 different forms of birth control.
5. Have you tried _____?
(Fill in the blank with various drugs, treatments, herbal remedies, etc.) Please don’t offer medical advice. When a woman is struggling with infertility, she usually becomes a self-professed expert on all possible ways to get pregnant. Let her work with her doctor and let them come up with the proper plan. I can’t even keep track of how many times it was suggested that we try herbal remedies and cough syrup. And how many times I smiled and pretended it was that easy.
4. God told me it’s going to be okay.
Unless God has directly shown/told/spoken to the couple to whom infertility is affecting, this is not a good thing to say, mostly because it might not be okay. For reasons only He understands, they might not have a child. And if not, your message from God doesn’t bring the peace they’ll need to seek from the Lord on their own.
3. But you already have a child.
Wow. This one is like a knife in the heart. No matter whether you have zero children or ten, the desire to have a child is the same. Secondary Infertility affects women who have been able to have one (or more) children with no problems, and then suddenly, and most often inexplicably, find themselves facing infertility. Just because a woman has one or more children doesn’t mean she’s not dealing with infertility, so please don’t assume that because she’s got kids she’s not dealing with this issue. Any time a couple has to resort to using medications and procedures to get pregnant, infertility is an issue. And no matter whether it takes 6 months or 6 years, emotionally, it wreaks havoc on the heart. So please don’t tell a woman she should forget about her desire to have more children because she already has one. That one (or more) is a blessing, but the ache to have another will be the same as her ache to have the first.
2. Just adopt, then you’ll get pregnant.
This is not a good thing to say for many reasons, but let’s narrow it down to two. First, this cheapens the glorious blessing that is adoption. When a couple chooses to adopt, in my opinion, God sows that family together in bonded love the same way as He would if giving the parents a biological child. So when you encourage someone to adopt “just so” they can get a biological child, it’s like equating that adopted child to an item you can pick up at the local grocery store. Not special. Not valuable. Not as important as a biological child. Secondly, while I have heard stories of women who have gotten pregnant while going through or just after the adoption process, this is a very, very infrequent occurrence. So it’s not a good idea to encourage a woman with this statement.
1. Just relax and it will happen.
No it won’t. 99.9% of the time, relaxing has nothing to do with fixing an infertility issue. If it were that easy, those of us struggling with infertility would definitely try that well before working with doctors and medical experts to try to get pregnant. Relaxing is not an option when it comes to getting pregnant when you’re struggling with infertility. “Relaxing” doesn’t make the problem go away. So please understand that when you tell a woman to relax, it’s likely that you’ll only increase her level of stress.
If there’s a person in your life who’s struggling with infertility, there are lots of good and helpful things to say. Here are some suggestions:
1. “I’m praying for you.” And do it. Actually pray. Even better? Pray out loud with that person so that they know you mean what you say.
2. “I can’t imagine how hard this must be. I’m going to be here for you if there’s anything you need.”
3. Encourage the woman to read 1 Samuel 1:10-11 and pray the prayer of Hannah.
4. If you know someone else who has struggled with infertility, put them in contact with each other. Speaking from experience, having someone to encourage you who’s had a similar experience is incredibly helpful.
5. Don’t say anything. Just love her, support her, and listen when she needs you to.
Share with me: What can you add to these lists?
14 responses to “What Not To Say To A Woman With Infertility”
This might sound weird, but this morning I flipped open my Bible and read Hannah’s story, which reminded me of a young friend of mine who had a miscarriage. It’s been heavy on me to pray for her after that, and reading this, I felt like I ought to call her, just to say she’s on my mind and I love her. If she wants to talk fine, if not, she needs to know she’s on someone’s mind today.
Thanks for the confirmation and being a blessing to me today!
Jessica- The Lord laid this post on my heart weeks ago and for some reason I kept changing the date to post it. But I felt the nudge to post it today. Guess He was working that out for the greater good. I had no doubt that your friend will be warmed and comforted knowing that you’re there for her and that you’re praying!
Such an important post. I got a lot of #3 at a certain time in my life and it drove me batty.
Thanks for bravely and necessarily putting these words into a post.
This is valuable important stuff J. Thanks for sharing. My sister has been going through this and I haven’t known exactly what to say or do.
Hi Jenny! You are so dead on with this post. While we were struggling with infertility trying to conceive Caden, I was constantly amazed at how many people thought they could “cure” me. It only served to bring my hopes down further and lower my already bottomed out self-esteem. I just felt lost and broken and more than advice I just wanted to someone to sit with me and hold my hand and listen. It was only through prayer that I was able to walk that journey and it only made Caden’s conception that much more special. Now…looking back on two miscarriages, and seven surgeries (including a full hysterectomy this past summer) I am even more grateful for the Godly women that walked my path along side me and held me up when I couldn’t do it myself. And every day I thank God for my two little miracles.
Just adopt, then you’ll get pregnant.
Grrrrr……oh, grrrrrrr!!! For so many reasons grrrrrr.
That is such a hot button for me.
When a couple chooses to adopt, they are all in. They are excited. This is not a backup plan. Don’t make it sound like a backup plan, please. It is so hurtful. For parents who adopt. For a woman struggling with infertility. And most especially, for the children who are adopted.
Awesome post, Jenny.
Excellent post, Jennifer. It definitely gives me a good perspective, since I’ve got lots of friends in the baby-having stage.
Whenever someone else is struggling with something, it’s often the case that other people feel this NEED to DO something to FIX it. But with this, and with most things, they can’t. So your advice to pray for them and love them through it? Priceless.
I’m so glad that y’all are getting something from this post. Sometimes people just don’t know what to say when something bad happens to someone they love or care about. To me, it’s really helpful to get first-hand information from someone who has been through it.
this is a great post! why am i no longer receiving email updates when you post?!?! i’m sorry i’ve been absent over here lately! but apparently when you switched, i lost my virtual connection or something. will resign up, i guess? you know i love you.
Yes, you have to sign up again. I lost everyone when I switched to WP. Oh well. 🙂 Thanks, chica!
Other favorites I had: Just drink the water (I could have a continuous drip IV and it still wouldn’t happen thanks); Come join our SS because everyone’s getting pregnant there!; and God must have only thought you needed one (because I did not choose the path that happened to me – and while I would not change it or the one blessing I do have? It doesn’t stop my heart that has been glued together so many times from wanting the desire of my heart).
I will say this – it is a grieving process – one that does not have a funeral, that does not allow friends to come rally – but having gone through infertility? I will say that I grieved the child I could not have – and continue to grieve it. I have accepted it but my heart still has the moments when it hurts. Your suggestions are spot on. Hugging my neck? Says so much more than anyone could have known.
Amen, Shannon. Amen. It’s definitely a grieving process. I’m so glad you mentioned it. I don’t think anyone understands that unless they’ve gone through it.
What an awesome post to share, Jenny. As someone who hasn’t dealt with infertility, it’s so hard to know how to help someone who is. If I know a specific friend is struggling, I tend to not say anything because I don’t want to hurt in any way. I appreciate the constructive ideas you gave that can truly help friends in this situation.
This is great advice. I think that when someone is hurting and going through a hard time all they need is love. I have learned in many situations to say that I don’t understand what someone is going through but I will be praying for them.