What to say to someone going through fertility treatment

What to say to someone going through fertility treatment
Here’s what to say (and what not to say) to show your support and empathy for someone you know going through fertility treatment.
Written by Orchid Team 
Medically reviewed by Cristina Vidal, RN
  • Cristina Vidal, RN, is the IVF-Donor-Surrogate nurse coordinator at Stanford Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility with over 20 years of experience in the fertility and reproductive clinic.

Fertility treatment can be a difficult, lonely journey for many couples. It takes a toll emotionally, mentally, and physically. It also interrupts patients’ daily lives when it comes to work, social obligations, and family responsibilities.

It can be difficult for someone on the outside to know what to say to someone that’s going through IVF. Words of encouragement for someone going through IVF can be very helpful, but sometimes even the most well-intentioned remarks can come off as insensitive. Here’s what to say and what not to say to show your support and empathy for someone you know going through fertility treatment.

What Not to Say

People going through IVF need emotional support, not toxic positivity—and yes, that’s a thing! Here’s what we mean:

“Don’t stress, everything will work out!”

IVF treatment involves self-administering medications, hormonal changes, emotional distress, a strict treatment schedule, and substantial financial investment, which are all very stressful things. The truth is that even after all of that, patients don't know if it will work. Each individual or couple going through fertility treatment have their own IVF journeys.

“When so-and-so stopped trying, they got pregnant right away”

Many women going through IVF treatments have heard this urban legend, so to speak. Sure, it happens, but not because couples “stop trying,” it just happens to be the time that everything falls into place for them. It’s pure coincidence.

The last thing anyone struggling with fertility wants to hear is about someone else’s success. It’s not that they aren’t happy for others who conceive, it’s that it only reminds them of their own perceived failure. Everyone's experience is unique and different, so don't compare different circumstances.

“You can always adopt”

Adopting is an incredibly difficult process that can take over a year just to be deemed fit to adopt. It’s also not a back-up plan — it’s expensive and not always possible.

Adopting is a serious decision, and treating it as a quick and easy alternative does nothing but minimize the experience of couples who intentionally choose to adopt. It also doesn’t help the person currently going through IVF treatment since they’re dealing with emotions directly related to their own bodies. Adopting can be a good option for some people, but it’s also not for everyone.

“Enjoy time without kids while you still can!”

This can make the person that’s struggling feel uncomfortable and diminish someone else’s desire to start a family of their own.

What to Say Instead

Instead of saying the above or anything in relation, it’s best to do your own research on IVF and infertility. This will give you a better perspective on what your loved one or someone you know is going through.

Most of the time, the person struggling just wants someone to lean on and listen, not speak. In the meantime, here are some words of encouragement for someone going through IVF:

  • I can imagine IVF treatment is stressful, would you like to talk about it?
  • IVF sounds complicated, could you tell me more about the process?
  • What can I do to help you feel better? (ex., make you dinner, come with you to an appointment, hang on the couch and watch movies all day, etc.)
  • I’ll be here if you need me.

The most important thing is to respect your loved one’s journey and support that journey, no matter what they decide. Starting a family is a very personal decision, especially for someone undergoing IVF treatments.

Fertility treatment and reproductive medicine have come a long way since IVF was first introduced over 40 years ago. If you are planning on starting or growing your family, check out our expert guides on all things genetics and fertility. Today, advanced genetic screening is now available to couples who want their child to have the best shot of a healthy life. Explore how Orchid helps you conceive with confidence.
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