Talking About Infertility With Your Friends and Family

Infertility is a very personal, and often painful, subject for couples having trouble getting pregnant. Communicating this issue with friends and family is sometimes complicated by feelings of inadequacy or shame, when the truth is there’s nothing you or your partner did wrong to find yourself in this situation.

Although many friends and family are only trying to lend support and help you feel better, they can inadvertently say the wrong thing or offer “helpful” suggestions that seem insensitive or inappropriate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant. But even knowing you are not alone doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to go through, so having the support of friends and family can be key to weathering this difficult time.

So when is the best time to talk about infertility with them? Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer—it is up to you and your partner—but here are some helpful tips we can share with you.

Figure Out Your Approach

No matter how you are dealing with your infertility issues—whether you are exploring in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, seeking help through egg or sperm donors, or even the use of a surrogate—first, think about what you both want to say and how you want to say it. You and your partner may have different comfort levels with how much you want to share and with whom. Once you have agreed on this, consider your audience. You may want to use different approaches depending on the person you are sharing with.

Keep it Simple

If friends or family want to know more than you are ready to share, just remember that you control the flow of information. Simple statements like, “We’ll let you know when we have more news to share,” or “We’ll post an update when we are ready,” can really help, especially if you don’t want to share every test result or milestone.

Be Ready for Questions

Be prepared for any questions they might ask, even if they might seem offensive or ignorant. You and your partner will quickly become experts on the subject of infertility and how you are dealing with it, but don’t expect your friends and family to know as much as you do. Answer the questions you feel comfortable with, or you can politely direct them to helpful resources.

Focus on Your Feelings

Also, be aware of your feelings and try and communicate them to friends and family or educate them on the emotional and physical toll an experience like this can take. Let them know if it’s hard for you to celebrate and attend certain life events or get-togethers. Be specific about the support you need—it will benefit both of you.

In the end, just make sure to go at your own pace and don’t feel like you have to divulge any information you are not comfortable with to anyone. If you find you need more support, consider seeking out and joining an online or in-person group of others going through the same experiences.

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 26 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for over two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for intended parents, surrogates and donors. She is the co-owner of Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national Emeritus board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman’s is the author of the book, Your Future Family: The Essential Guide to Assisted Reproduction (Conari Press 2019) as well as the children's book You Began as a Wish (Independent Press 2019). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 35 years. She has two adult daughters.