Infertility faux pas: 5 things not to say to a woman struggling to conceive

By Claire Brazer

Historically, child rearing is to women a certainty, a birthright, from a very young age: the prevalence of gender specific toys such as dolls and the focus on promoting maternal role-playing games is dominant, and ingrained, early on.

So for a woman having difficulty conceiving, she is comparably being denied the right to something that she is told, and inevitably believes, will be all hers.

Fertility is a contentious issue. As a subject that is often difficult to broach, the pressure on couples trying to conceive is enormous. An emotional minefield, infertility is frequently handled in an insensitive manner by well-meaning friends and relatives keen to impart their words of wisdom to those finding conception difficult. Here, then, is a little of what not to say to those struggling to conceive, however well-intentioned the advice may be:

1.    When are you going to have children? Is your child going to get a sibling?

Particularly when first married or in an established relationship, women are asked on a regular basis when they intend to start a family, or if they already have one child when they will try for baby ‘number 2’. This is tiresome enough for women who have made the decision not to have children, but for those who do want children and are having difficulty conceiving, it is extremely unhelpful: the couple in question is undoubtedly wondering the same thing.

2.    Be thankful that you already have one child

If conceiving your first child was straightforward, it can come as something of a shock if you find it difficult to become pregnant next time around. Secondary infertility, when you have trouble conceiving again, is encountered by approximately one in seven couples (HFEA 2011) and is particularly hard to cope with if all of your friends are falling pregnant considerably easily with their subsequent babies. Secondary infertility is actually more common than not being able to conceive at all and is more likely to affect older women, when fertility rates are reduced with increasing age. Wanting further children does not detract from the child that you already have. Many women wish to repeat this experience.

3.    When the time is right, it will happen

While positive thinking is a useful coping mechanism, it remains a frustrating experience when pregnancy remains elusive month after month. Infertility problems can feel vast and impossible. But while friends and family are undoubtedly doing their best to spur on loved ones, it can start to feel somewhat patronising as they are often unable to understand the extent of the problems. The very fact that pregnancy isn’t happening begins to make those in this situation wonder if there ever will be a right time. Speculation is, after all, futile.

4.    Don’t stress! Just relax

By definition, a couple is diagnosed as infertile if they have unsuccessfully tried to become pregnant after one year. While clichés such as ‘don’t stress, just relax’, and ‘when the time is right’, are well meaning, time renders these absurd: relaxation itself does not cure medical infertility. While experiencing stress is undoubtedly not going to help anyone trying to conceive, infertility remains a medically diagnosable problem. The clichéd advice along the lines of relax/go on holiday/ don’t stress are all variations of the same theme which actually creates more stress, particularly for women, who can feel like they are doing something wrong. In fact, there is a good chance of there being a physical problem preventing pregnancy in the first place.

5.    Kids are a nightmare anyway, you’re better off without them

Some people are intent on masking their own children’s qualities in favour of promoting their more negative traits in a bid to ‘prove’ that your life, somehow, is better off without children. Listing a child’s attributes to an infertile couple in a positive light is not a bad thing. No matter how many reasons you can think of to not become a parent (sleepless nights, expensive childcare, loss of freedom, financial constraints) every childless couple would disagree with each and every point: to be given the chance to become a parent far outweighs any ‘negatives’.

If you’ve been trying to conceive without success and would like to book an appointment with one of our experts at The Lister Fertility Clinic please go to book-an-appointment