August 9, 2022

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Infertility is more common than many people realise. Even if you haven’t dealt with it...

Infertility is more common than many people realise. Even if you haven’t dealt with it personally, chances are someone in your life has.

In the US, 12% to 15% of couples are unable to conceive after one year of trying, according to the National Institutes of Health, while infertility affects one in seven heterosexual couples in the UK, according to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

When you find out you’re pregnant, it’s natural to want to share the good news with family and friends. But telling a loved one who’s struggling with infertility can be tough to navigate. You don’t want to keep this person in the dark, but you’re also scared of hurting them at the same time.

Sarah Herron, a content creator and former contestant on US reality show, The Bachelor, recently shared a video on Instagram addressing this delicate matter, which has since been viewed more than 850,000 times.

As someone who’s been trying to conceive for two years and undergoing IVF treatment for one year, Herron offers suggestions in the video on how to broach the conversation.

“It has been a rollercoaster of emotions – one month you’re up, the next you’re down,” Herron tells HuffPost of her fertility journey.

A number of the reality star’s friends started trying to conceive around the same time this summer. When one of these pals told Herron they were pregnant, it caught her off guard, “drum[ming] up all kinds of emotions” she wasn’t expecting.

“Obviously I’m SO excited for my friends when they find out they’re pregnant, but it also makes me sad, and in a weird way I feel slightly abandoned each time,” Herron wrote in a caption for the video. “Many emotions exist at once, which is why I’d prefer to have time to gather my feelings in private before responding – and never in person if possible.”

Herron concluded that she’d personally prefer to receive pregnancy news from friends via text, rather than face-to-face.

“The reason is that it allows a person or couple to process the news without being expected to reply or emote any particular way immediately in person, or then have to awkwardly carry on a conversation you don’t feel comfortable in,” she tells HuffPost. “Most people are very happy for their friends’ pregnancies, but when you have been trying to conceive for a very long time, announcements can be very painful and like a punch to the gut. I think it’s important that more people can learn how to respectfully hold space for that struggle.”

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Her other tips for sharing the news include:

  • Keeping the message short and sweet

  • Not downplaying your joy

  • Acknowledging your friend’s fertility journey

  • Offering compassion and support

Herron also shared a sample text of what you might say to a friend in this situation:

“Hi! I want to tell you I’m pregnant! I know this is hard. I am still here for you and I’m grateful we have each other. I love you!”

Arielle Bogorad is a senior vice president at Progyny, a fertility and family benefits company. She faced her struggles trying to conceive and was diagnosed with unexplained infertility in 2017. Over the next year, she had a polyp removed, completed four egg retrievals and had two stimulation cycles canceled because she wasn’t responding to the IVF medications.

“Out of the four egg retrievals, I obtained one chromosomally normal embryo and one inconclusive embryo,” she tells HuffPost. “Upon retesting, the inconclusive embryo was astonishingly normal! I transferred that embryo on January 11, 2019, and gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on September 25, 2019. She is my miracle baby!”

“I’m so excited for my friends when they find out they’re pregnant, but it also makes me sad, and in a weird way I feel slightly abandoned each time.”

– Sarah Herron

In 2021, Bogorad transferred her remaining embryo and was pregnant 10 days later. But some time between her positive pregnancy test and her six-week ultrasound, she had a miscarriage.

“IVF brings high highs and low lows,” Bogorad says. “The loss of control in the process is overwhelming. Up until this point in my life, hard work and perseverance had brought opportunity and success. But not with IVF. You can do the research, you can follow all the steps, you can change what you eat, get acupuncture, do all the things, but you still might not get the results you are hoping and praying for.”

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Bogorad says she, too, experienced conflicting emotions when her friends and family shared their pregnancy news amid her struggles: a mix of excitement, sadness and frustration. While breaking the news via text might be the right move in some cases, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule because “every friendship is different,” she says.

“Personally, I would want my friends to tell me on the phone or face-to-face but avoid telling [me] in a group setting,” she said. “I think they can preface it by saying: ‘I have some good news and some hard news.’”

What Bogorad definitely wouldn’t want, though, is to hear the news indirectly.

“I would be most hurt to see an announcement post on social media of a close friend who didn’t first share her news with me privately,” Bogorad says. “I have always been happy for my family and friends who became pregnant while I was struggling, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t go home and cry and lament that it isn’t fair and wonder why is this my journey?”

“I would be most hurt to see an announcement post on social media of a close friend who didn’t first share her news with me privately.”

– Arielle Bogorad

For more advice on how to support a friend dealing with infertility, we reached out to Tamara Hunter, a therapist specializing in infertility and the founder of Womb Wisdom Wellness in Atlanta. She had trouble conceiving before becoming a mom, so she has been on both sides of the equation. Here’s what she said:

Give your friend permission to respond to your baby news when they’re ready.

Allow them some time to process. Be understanding if they can’t congratulate you right away, Hunter said.

Don’t assume you know how they’re feeling.

You might say something like: “I’ve never experienced infertility and I’m not sure what to say. However, I want you to know I support you taking care of yourself,” Hunter says, before adding another suggestion of what to say, “I don’t know how you feel, and I don’t want to assume. But I imagine this may be hard for you.”

Tell them you understand it’s possible for them to be happy for you and sad for themselves at the same time.

“One emotion does not negate the other,” Hunter says.

Put the ball in their court.

For some people struggling with infertility, being around a pregnant friend might be difficult. For others, it may not be quite as hard. Let your friend decide what they’re up for – and what they’re not.

It’s a “completely unique experience to every person experiencing infertility,” Herron says. “It’s not personal, it’s just part of the grieving that comes with this struggle. This doesn’t mean you should close your friend out or keep things secret from them. Still, invite them into your life, but give them space to take a step back for a while if it’s too difficult to show up without judgments or assumptions.”

That means extending an invite to a celebratory event like gender reveals and baby showers, which can bring up a lot of emotions for those struggling to conceive. You should still include these friends, but don’t expect them to come.

“Let them know you understand by asking, ‘How would attending make you feel?’” Hunter says. Or, “I understand if you are unable to be present. I wouldn’t want you to do anything that will make you uncomfortable.”

Remind them that you’re still here for them.

Reassure your friend that you will support them however you can. Offer to help her find an infertility support group, social media community or a therapist specialising in infertility if that’s something she’s interested in. Or simply ask what else you can do for her.

“If she doesn’t know, sometimes being present and sharing the same silence speaks volumes,” Hunter said.