Proper Etiquette When Speaking About Fertility

Many couples struggling to conceive tend to keep it to themselves. They often don’t share with work colleagues, friends and even close family. Many of my clients haven’t even told their own parents. Times where they found the courage to share some of their fertility challenges, responses from others feel insensitive and in some cases feel downright hurtful. Once bitten twice shy, they quickly realize that telling others about their fertility is not in their best interest. Whether is it for fear of judgment or worry of what others might say, in time, their fertility journey becomes very isolating.

Unless you have had a personal experience with fertility challenges you can never truly understand the depths of this deeply emotional journey. How do you respond in a supportive way when you have never had issues with your own fertility? What can you possibly say to woman that has just had a miscarriage that would feel comforting and supportive? Each week I hear my fertility clients say over and over again that other people in their life “just don’t get it”. People often dismiss their worries or anxiety by responding “Just relax and it will happen”. What they don’t realize is that the psychological distress is high, making it difficult to “just relax”. A common response is “Don’t worry you can always adopt”. As if adoption was a simple and easy alternative.

Recent research has shown that for many women fertility issues can create levels of anxiety and depression equivalent to women with cancer, HIV status or heart disease. So telling a woman that she can always adopt would be like telling a breast cancer patient, not to worry she can always get another breast. Obviously you would never do that, but to a woman with a deep desire to have a baby, it can feel that insensitive.

I know that people don’t intend to be hurtful and I remind my clients of that on a daily basis. I remind them that they are not hurt by what others are saying, they are feeling hurt because of the meaning they are placing on the words that are said.

Here are some of my client’s interpretations of the comment about adoption.

“It’s not going to work anyway I might as well give up.”

“I am a failure.”

“No one believes I can get pregnant.”

“I might as well accept defeat.”

What do you Say?

So what can you say or do to be supportive? I have created a list of suggested responses to specific challenges couples face on their journey. Keep in mind that sometimes the best response is no response. Often they just need you to listen.

Click here to read more and/or to download the full article.

Author: Fertility Yoga

Sue Dumais is the founder of Family Passages Mind Body Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she facilitates programs to support women and couples through their fertility. Sue combines more than 18 years of experience as a fitness expert, yoga instructor, energetic healer and life coach. She is the author of "A Strong Core for Life," and "Yoga for Fertility Handbook." She travels and teaches about the importance of healing through one's fertility journey. Recognizing the need for more support for fertility clients, Sue has developed a Fitness Fertility Specialist Certification and Yoga for Fertility Instructor Training Course. A pioneer in her field, Sue's Yoga for Fertility Classes, Private Yoga Therapy Sessions and "Transforming Your Fertility" couples mind body program have been instrumental in transforming the fertility experiences of countless women and couples. To learn more visit

2 thoughts on “Proper Etiquette When Speaking About Fertility”

  1. Hi,

    I just wanted to say that whilst I appreciate the good intentions of this article I have a problem with your ‘suggested responses’. I for one can’t stand it when people ask me ‘are you sure you’ve considered all the options?’ it makes me want to scream!

    Everybody’s experiences are different and the support they need (and the responses therefore) vary too. By asking people who are dealing with fertility issues how they want to be treated, by making a record of that and using this information as the basis for our responses we can avoid saying the wrong thing and causing offence. Stock responses sound disingenuous because they are.

    Have you heard of one page profiles? I’m working on one at the moment around my own fertility and it’s already been an invaluble experience. You can find loads on info on google.

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