Infertility Etiquette

footmouthIf your friend is undergoing fertility treatment, here are some sentences you might want to rethink.

1. ‘Which of you has the problem?’ (in terms of ’causes’ there’s a 50/50 split between male and female infertility – and in any case, it’s a joint struggle)

2. ‘What exactly is wrong?’ 

3. ‘You can always adopt’. (A wonderful option, but actually, you can’t always adopt,  as for many reasons it’s not that straightforward. And if you’re undergoing IVF you’re not allowed to be in the adoption process)

4. ‘Best thing is not to get stressed’. (Guaranteed to raise the blood pressure)

5. ‘You’re thinking about it too much’.

6. ‘God’s told me you’re going to have three beautiful boys’.  (That’s nice.  Might be true.  But even if it’s true, the prophecy doesn’t make it happen, it only encourages me to put my hope in a certain outcome and not the Lord).

7. ‘It’ll happen when you stop trying’.  (We tried not trying and that didn’t work either.)

8. ‘God knows what He doing, not giving you kids right now’ (True, but it’s hard not to interpret this as “God knows you’d be a terrible mum.”)

9. ‘Be thankful you’ve already got one’. (Secondary infertility  – when you’ve got a child but can’t have more – is massively painful)

10. ‘My sister’s best friend’s niece had a similar issue…’

11. ‘Don’t give up’ (Meant well, but sometimes giving up is good)

12. ‘You’re so lucky not to have kids’

13. ‘My husband only has to look at me and I’m pregnant’

14. ‘It’s Nature’s way’

15. ‘Are there any issues you need to repent about?’ (About 7 billion: have you read my blog? Thankfully fertility (tho a blessing),  is not index-linked to godliness).

16. ‘Take my kids for an hour and you’ll think again’

17. ‘I thought you didn’t want any’

18. ‘We assumed you were focusing on your career’

19. ‘Have you tried…?’

20. ‘Are you really trying?’

21. ‘We just assumed that…’


Some of these may well be appropriate in some circumstances.  But let the situation and the friendship dictate it.


Remember the person you’re chatting to may have been pumped full of mind and mood-altering hormones

Allow them to raise the issue.

Remember that there’s no perfect phrase: all of us get it wrong sometimes: and it means a lot that you care.



‘I’m sorry’

‘We’re praying for you’

And if the situation and relationship is right, Ask

‘Would it help to talk about it?’

‘How are you praying about it?’

‘Where is Jesus in all of this?’






16 thoughts on “Infertility Etiquette

  1. I’ve heard a LOT of these in my time and to be completely honest I’ve SAID a few of these too, to my shame. I should know better. It’s tough isn’t it because I hated it when people stopped telling me when they were pregnant and didn’t ever talk about babies etc in front of me but then it IS difficult to know what to say and also what is OK one month is REALLY not OK another! All we can do is be honest and loving with each other, tell each other when we’ve put our foot in it, apologise when we’ve been insensitive, forgive, hopefully learn, always LOVE. As usual, I’m grateful for your candour. We can all learn so much from your transparency.

  2. I’m always careful what I say….Because for me, my struggle isn’t infertility but autoimmune thyroid disease. And the “things you shouldn’t say ” list for me includes “why are you complaining? At least it’s not cancer”. Nice. Really helpful. Feel for you and praying.x

  3. Number 9 – oh hell yes *sigh*. Along with the lovely person who told me I clearly didn’t love small boy enough if I was this unhappy about not having another…

  4. I’m fairly sure we’re all terrible mothers. God is gracious. Still praying for you, in love x

  5. Yup, heard at least half of those. :( All meant with the best of intentions, but not that helpful.

    Also, why do so many people ask about adoption? I mean, it’s a maybe, but it’s a long way off and a whole different can of emotional worms. It’s not a fix.

  6. Claire: so true – I’ve said far worse to others and in fact, most people have been brilliant.Even the ones who’ve made blunders have spoken out of love and I’m thankful for their concern (retrospectively at least!)

    Thanks Esther, S, and Lucy: prayers so appreciated.

    PWF,S and Lizzie: sorry you’ve had these too (for different reasons)
    PWF yes, adoption is a wonderful thing, but it brings a whole new set of challenges and isn’t as simple as it is sometimes portrayed.

    Heloise: Draw explicit pictures and ask for feedback. ;-)

  7. We heard most of these during our struggle. Sometimes it takes all your strength not to throttle someone, however nice and helpful they think they’re being.

  8. I read the list of things not to say with increasing despair, but thankfully the list of things to say are appropriate when faced with any intractable suffering

    ‘I’m sorry’

    “‘We’re praying for you’

    And if the situation and relationship is right, Ask

    ‘Would it help to talk about it?’

    ‘How are you praying about it?’

    ‘Where is Jesus in all of this?’”

    Thanks, Emma. Blessings!

  9. no 9 made me laugh – not in a belly aching tears rolling down my cheeks kinda way… but a cynical “yeah – whatever” kinda way. I am blessed and have children – 2 boys and 2 girls – in that order. But when I had my first girl I was surprised/offended/shocked/angry at the sheer volume of people who said “oh you can stop (having children) now – you’ve got at least one of each (gender)”…. Nobody knows the struggles an individual goes through (except Jesus) – no matter what the current ‘challenge’ may be – and NOBODY has the right to ‘judge’ in ANY capacity what is right/good for you… my prayers are with you during this tough time, and I pray that you continue to look to Jesus… and forgive us all our ‘bad infertility etiquette’ xx

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