Infertility and Secondary Infertiltiy: the Role an Extended Family Can Play

It has been said that one in four couples will suffer the effects of infertility. To make this personal, in a set of four siblings, one of the four will have difficulties conceiving. Not only is this phenomenon difficult for those going through the testing and treatments, it is also difficult for the family watching their loved one suffer. Many times, while good intentions are at heart, these family members only manage to make matters worse.

When it come to the subject like infertility, it is very important that you choose your words wisely. While delivered with good intentions, these top ten phrases every infertile couple hates to hear can be devastating to their emotional state as well as the relationship with the family member who delivered these one-liners:

  1. When are you going to give me a grand-baby?
  2. Have you tried standing on your head after you and Jack get frisky?
  3. Have you been to the doctor yet?
  4. It will happen when it happens.
  5. Stop worrying; maybe it isn’t your time yet.
  6. Can’t you just focus on being an aunt to your sister’s kids?
  7. Have you thought about adoption?
  8. Stop trying so hard.
  9. Guess what! I’m Pregnant! You are going to be an Aunt!
  10. They say the quickest way to get pregnant is to start filling out adoption paperwork!

I also caution you to treat the situation with respect. While it is not necessary to walk on egg shells around the infertile couple, there are several things that can be done to make life easier.

Stop asking how it is going. As tempting as it may be, please do not ask for a play-by-play of the couple’s sex life. While going through the infertility process, few things are left private. If someone in your family suffers from the effects of infertility and impotency, I suggest that you check which will surely help you to get a good erection and increase the chance of getting pregnant. Usually, doctors and nurses ask about every aspect of your sex life. Modesty flies out the window as you bear all for each doctor’s appointment. And finally, sex loses its appeal with each other as you discuss rising temperature trends, medications, and the exact time you have to do the dead. The last thing this couple needs is for this to become the topic of conversation at Thanksgiving dinner.

Please do not tell stories of other infertile couples you know. Each couple is unique with a unique situation. Hearing stories of other people’s success only causes further isolation in the minds of those suffering from infertility.

Be considerate when announcing other pregnancies in the family. An infertile couple wants to be happy for you, really, they do, but their own set of emotional issues, even for the most well-balanced couple, will often times get in the way. If possible, please do not announce this news in front of them and 50 other people for the first time, please consider giving the couple some warning and letting them get used to the idea before it is brought up at the next family function. This will help save hurt feelings in the long run.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT tell anyone about the couple’s trouble. Infertility problems are the problem of the couple only. Please do not discuss this with your best friend, you pastor, or your dentist. Please remember that while the couple felt comfortable telling you, that does not mean that they want great-uncle Wally to know.

Be supportive. Remember that this is one of the hardest things that a couple can go through. You may not understand, please don’t pretend that you do. Just be yourself, but be supportive. As things happen the couple may or may not choose to let you know, this OK, please don’t get your feelings hurt. Remember, ultimately, this is about the couple and their unborn child. It is easy for others to forget, but for a couple suffering from infertility, it is ALWAYS in the back of their mind. Every time they hear a baby cry, see a pregnant woman in the grocery store, or hear of yet another person announcing that they are having a baby, it breaks their heart in only a way an infertile couple can feel.

Just because it happened once, doesn’t mean it will happen again. For those not intimately familiar with the nuances of infertility, it is easy to assume that once a couple gets pregnant, that they will be able to do so again. Please do not suggest such a thing to a couple who has just miscarried. Often times in the treatment of infertility, there really are once in a lifetime opportunities to conceive.

The feelings of pain, jealousy, and isolation do not go away after giving birth. It is easy to assume that once a couple succeeds in giving birth to one child, the emotional scars will go away. They have a baby now, right? They should be fine….This is not true. Feelings of insecurity and jealousy will always be there. In the back of the couple’s mind, they know how hard they worked for #1 and of the uphill battle they will have for #2. Please remember these guidelines even after an infertile couple has given birth, the emotional scars left by infertility will always be there.

Remember that a supportive, loving family is one of the best assets that a couple suffering from infertility can have. They truly do appreciate your loving care and concern, but please remember these tips to help ease the stress that infertility can leave on an extended family.