The Least Helpful Things To Say To Someone Who Is Trying To Get Pregnant
If you know someone in fertility treatments, you probably want to support them, but might not always know what to say. Here’s a list of the least helpful things to say to someone who is trying to get pregnant.
1. IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY
This statement, while well intentioned, often spirals women into feelings of overwhelm, frustration and anxiety.
Nobody KNOWS it is going to be okay.
NOBODY can guarantee it will be “okay.”
While most women will get pregnant eventually, not all women will be able to get pregnant or maintain a pregnancy, and right now (because you don’t have a crystal ball) you have no way of knowing it will be okay for her, the woman in front of you right now.
Instead of saying “It’s going to be okay,” identify what she is feeling in the moment and join her there. Say something like “That must be so hard” or “I’m sorry to hear you are going through this right now.”
2. AT LEAST…
Just don’t. If ANY sentence you are about to utter starts with the word “at least…” hear that word in your head BEFORE you say it and choose to not say it. Starting a sentence with “at least” is completely minimizing and just straight up rude.
Right now she is hurting, scared and worried. Any sentence starting with “at least…” will make her shrink even further into herself (and make you look like an A-hole, let’s be honest). “At least…” will add nothing of value to the conversation, and you will get added to the list of people whom she can’t talk with about this topic. It is literally one of the least helpful things to say to someone who is trying to get pregnant. If anything about this point is confusing, watch Brene Brown’s short video on empathy to better understand why “at least…” is not helpful.
3. DON’T SHARE FERTILITY HORROR STORIES
I don’t know why this is even a thing, but some people feel compelled to dive into awful narratives about someone they knew who had a horrible fertility experience. Irregardless of the intention of this story (and I’m hard-pressed to think of one good intention in sharing this story), stories like this add fear to an already uncertain experience.
If someone you know is trying to get pregnant right now, adding fear to their current life experience will not make things better. Fear states send bodies into flight, flight or freeze by dumping a series of adrenaline and stress based hormones into the body. When bodies are in flight or fight, they are not in baby-making mode. Instead, they are in survival mode and bodies trying to SURVIVE a perceived (life) threatening situation are not trying to make a baby, they are trying to not die. Stress hormones are counter-productive to the state of well-being needed to create life. So, be a good human and don’t share fertility horror stories because it’s one of the least helpful things you can say to someone who is trying to get pregnant.
4. DON’T SHARE STORIES OF HOPE
Just like sharing fertility horror stories is not helpful, sharing stories of hope can also be unhelpful and unwanted. If you have a story that you think COULD help her have hope in this moment, ask her if she would like to hear it. Fertility challenges come with many ups and downs. People who have not lived through the experience will never be able to understand the pain, fear and anxiety a person experiences while undergoing fertility treatment. Based on where she is (emotionally and psychologically) in this moment, she may be open to your story about hope, but she might not be open to it too. Get consent to share your story of hope before overloading her with optimism, especially if that optimism is a reaction to your discomfort in the moment.
5. AVOID ASKING QUESTIONS
Most of the women and couples report increased anxiety, panic, pressure, overwhelm and frustration when parents, in-laws and others ask questions about the fertility process. Unless the person you know who is trying to conceive said asking questions about their fertility process is okay, assume that it is one of the least helpful things you can say to someone who is trying to get pregnant right now. While some women have fertility success rather quickly, other women are in treatment for months to years, and treatments have significant emotional and psychological impact that she may or may not feel equipped to address right now.
If the question if for your benefit, it’s not for hers, and you should think twice about asking it.
If the question is relevant, ask if you can ask it before just asking it. Doing so, will limit over-taxing her emotional and psychological bandwidth, which may already be over-taxed.
6. AVOID CRITICISM, SHAME AND BLAME
This should be self-explanatory, BUT if any statement begins with a critical YOU statement like “You should have started trying earlier” or “you should have known this would happen with your history, age, substance abuse history, etc” stop talking. Statements that add shame and/or blame are one of the least helpful things you can say to someone who is trying to get pregnant right now.
Other examples of shame and blame would be responding by saying something like “well, we would like to help you, but you never tell us anything”or “I don’t know what say. I guess if we knew earlier, we could have helped you.” This process is not about you, the listener, it is about her, the person undergoing fertility treatments. Be kind and avoid being critical, blaming or shaming.
Lori O’Mara is an AASECT certified sex therapist and fertility specialist in Philadelphia, PA. She is available for individual and couple therapy. Contact Lori via email here.