Support Network 101: How to Support a Loved One Trying to Conceive

Written by: Christina Steixner, Holistic Health Coach

Infertility is a deeply personal and challenging journey that affects millions of individuals and couples worldwide. It is an increasingly common topic, with cases on the rise, and we see a decline in the birth rate throughout the world. While it may not always be openly discussed, the emotional toll it takes on those navigating this experience can be heavy and sometimes feel all-consuming. As friends, family members, or partners, it's crucial to provide unwavering support and empathy during this time. Keep reading to explore some meaningful ways to support someone struggling with infertility. We offer tips on emotional support as well as relevant advice on boundaries necessary to help your loved one feel less alone.

Educate Yourself on Infertility

One of the most impactful ways to support someone through infertility is to understand that unless you have been through it yourself, it can be difficult to empathize with the weight of the journey, the waiting, the physical and emotional tolls the process can take on someone. Familiarizing yourself with the physical expectations of trying to conceive with medical interventions, the emotional impact, and even understanding the medical processes they may endure can be an informed start. Understanding the process will help you empathize better with their experience and provide more meaningful support to their journey.

Know When to Listen and When to Advise

Infertility can evoke a wide range of emotions, including grief, frustration, anger, impatience, fear of the why and the unknown, as well as immense sadness. These feelings can come and go, and each can be present at any given hour. Remember, your loved one is being tested, poked, prodded, pricked, and potentially consuming medications far beyond the imagination. Be there for your loved one as a compassionate listener. Allow them to express their feelings without judgment or interruption. Sometimes, just having someone to vent to can provide immense relief. It can always be a good idea to ask up front if the person is seeking your advice or simply looking for a sounding board to vent and release some emotional tension.

Respect Boundaries

While being supportive is essential, respecting your loved one's boundaries is equally crucial. Infertility can be a sensitive topic, and not everyone may feel comfortable discussing it openly. Let them take the lead in conversations about their fertility journey and avoid prying or offering unsolicited advice.

Offer Practical Support

Practical gestures can go a long way in showing your support. Offer to accompany them to medical appointments if they feel comfortable, help with household responsibilities or errands to alleviate stress, or simply be there to lend a hand whenever needed. Small acts of kindness can make a significant difference during this time.

Validate Their Feelings

Infertility can trigger feelings of inadequacy, shame, and guilt. It's essential to validate your loved one's feelings and reassure them that their emotions are valid and understandable. Avoid minimizing their struggles or offering quick-fix solutions. Instead, offer empathy and understanding.

Avoid Making Assumptions

Everyone's journey with infertility is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Avoid making assumptions about what your loved one is going through or what they should do next. Instead, ask open-ended questions and let them guide the conversation. What worked for another person you know may not be a reality for others, and it's important to differentiate the two experiences.

Be Mindful of Triggers

Certain situations or events may serve as triggers for your loved one's emotions, such as pregnancy announcements, baby showers, or children-focused social gatherings. Be mindful of these triggers and offer your support in navigating them, whether it's attending events together or providing a listening ear about their level of comfort in participating or celebrating with friends and family. Also, remember that the fertility process is far from linear. Getting real-time updates by checking in frequently can be helpful as well. Depending on the stage of the process they're in, it may determine if they want to be a part of something or not. A lot of the journey involves medications that can take a physical and emotional toll. From hormone fluctuations to changes in their physical body, not to mention the roller coaster of emotions they endure, the process can be overwhelming some days. On other days, they may welcome the distraction of a celebration.

Encourage Self-Care

Encourage your loved one to prioritize self-care during this challenging time. Self-care should be an everyday priority, not one that is reactive to stressful scenarios. Offer to accompany them in activities that bring them joy and can help them relax, such as exercise, meditation, or spending time with loved ones. Remind them that taking care of their emotional and physical well-being is essential to navigating the process.

Offer Hope and Encouragement

While the journey through infertility may be filled with a winding road of ups and downs, it can be essential to check in on where they are emotionally. Sometimes offering the power of a hopeful mindset can feel really frustrating for the person enduring the physical and emotional toll that the fertility journey can take. Remind your loved one that while they may feel alone, they can lean into their support network in whatever capacity feels right for them at the moment.

Be Patient and Understanding

Above all, be patient and understanding throughout your loved one's infertility journey. It's a process that may take time, and there may be setbacks along the way. Your unwavering support and presence can make a world of difference in their ability to cope and navigate this challenging time.

Supporting someone struggling with infertility requires empathy, patience, and understanding. By educating yourself, being a good listener, providing practical support, and validating their feelings, you can help your loved one feel less alone on their journey. Remember to respect their boundaries, avoid making assumptions, and check in on their state of mind as often as it feels comfortable for you both. Together, you can navigate the challenges of infertility with compassion and a sense of community.