After going through numerous tests and procedures related to my infertility experience, I’m often asked how to support a friend during IVF. While everyone’s experiences are different, here are some suggestions that I have based on what worked for me. As always, check with the person and adjust your interactions based on your relationship with the person. If you’ve experienced infertility, feel free to share your suggestions in the comments below so that others can learn from you as well.
Let go of the need to give advice
As with any medical condition, most patients have researched their diagnosis, considered their options and made a treatment plan with their providers. Your suggestions were probably considered and may be impossible in their particular situation Or, your suggestion is not an option that the person wants to pursue. Avoid offering advice to a friend during IVF procedures, repeating cliché quotes (“If it’s meant to be, it will all work out”), or offering toxic positivity to their situation (“Stay positive and good things will happen”). Your friend has heard it all, read it all, tried it all, and considered it all. The number one complaint of those who struggle with infertility is hearing unsolicited advice after sharing that they are struggling to conceive. Be a good friend and refrain from offering advice.
Ask how you can support your friend during IVF
As mentioned, these suggestions were informed by my own experiences with infertility. It’s important to ask how you can personalize your support to your friend. In my case, I wanted to talk about my procedures and found comfort in sharing that we were going through IVF. Others may not want to talk about it. Both are okay. Some tangible ways to support your friend can be setting up a meal train, sending a card or checking in with texts. The most important step is to ask how they want to be supported.
Sit with the discomfort that comes with not having answers
It’s hard to watch someone who is hurting. And it’s hard to not have the answers to difficult situations. Often, we want to fix the problem. Get comfortable with knowing that at some point you and your friend are powerless over the outcome of their infertility. Be willing to sit and wait while your friend goes through the ups and downs of trying to conceive. The best gift you can give to your friend is to get comfortable at being uncomfortable with their situation. Sometimes holding space is all a person needs to know that you care for them.
Refrain from sharing secondhand stories
Unless you went through infertility treatments, it’s best to refrain from sharing how a neighbor’s sister was able to conceive via IVF. Another person’s success doesn’t mean that every person will have the same experience. For every person who has a successful outcome with IVF, there are more for whom it doesn’t work. Outcomes differ from person to person and one treatment protocol may not be appropriate for all patients. For me, listening to success story after success story didn’t make me feel better. I knew that IVF would work for others. The questions was: “Will IVF work for me?” I much preferred to hear from someone who went through it themselves who understood what I was going through.
Give some space to your friend during IVF
Infertility can feel exhausting for some people. Depending on the diagnosis and treatment plan, a person may need hormone treatments, vaginal ultrasounds, invasive and painful medical procedures, weekly blood draws, daily injections, and uncomfortable tests. In addition, some continue to receive disappointing news that takes time to process. If your friend needs space, let them know you support them during this difficult time and don’t take their distance personally. Read the next paragraph to learn ways you can help.
Never underestimate the power of a small gesture
Not only did I appreciate the friends who listened to me talk about my IVF experience, I deeply appreciated those who reached out in quiet but meaningful ways. Someone texted: ” Thinking of you today during your procedure. No need to respond.” One friend sent me the most thoughtful and unexpected card in the mail. I will never forget her kind words. Other friends left snacks and flowers on my front doorstep after a particularly difficult piece of news. Whatever your style, know that you can support a friend during IVF through a small gesture and it will have a big impact on them for life.
If you’d like to learn more about supporting a friend during IVF, check out this article for friends and family members by Resolve: The National Infertility Association. In addition, check out my blog post “Working During IVF” to understand what your friend might be going through while working during in vitro fertilization.