Five ways to support a friend with infertility (National Infertility Awareness Week)

It's National Infertility Awareness Week this week! Infertility gets mostly whispers in our world, but this week women and men all over the country are using their OUTSIDE VOICES to bring awareness to this issue: from treatment and insurance issues to social stigmas and emotional pain. There is no shame in suffering from infertility and I hope this week in our country goes a long way to opening up the  otherwise hushed conversation! Check out the hashtag #NIAW on FB and twitter! 

In honor of this week I'm sharing some advice for those who haven't walked the journey; something I'm commonly asked is, "How can I support my loved on who can't conceive?" Based on my own experience, here are 5 ways to support a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with infertility. (I'm writing about women since I am one and that's what I know, but you can use your imagination to apply these to men as well.) 

scripture passages sent to me by a friend
1. Text, call, message, or write. You know your friend best, but generally it's best to send messages of encouragement rather than questions. For example, if you know your friend is nearing the end of the two-week-wait after a fertility treatment, you can write, "Thinking of you as you prepare to get your pregnancy results!" rather than, "Any word on your results?" Sending encouraging messages gives space for your friend to share or not share any news, as her heart is ready. You might be worried about saying the wrong thing, but in my experience it is the friends who say nothing that hurt the most. Often just a simple, "Praying for you today" is enough. Proverbs 16:22, "Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones." 

2. Plan a kid-free evening. Ladies night out? Yes please! Whether it's an hour out for dinner or an evening in with snacks and laughter, it is important for your friend to have fun in the midst of her pain. Ask her what she'd like best! One of my favorite memories was early on when we had a failed IUI cycle and two of my girlfriends came over with wine; I just sat on the couch while they made me laugh and feel happy in an otherwise dark time. Proverbs 17:22, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." 

3. Give a meaningful gift. When my husband and I were adopting our son from Russia, someone gave us a small ceramic bird with a note that said, "His eye is on the sparrow. He watches over you and your little one." That bird meant the world to me and it still sits in our living room. Likewise, similar symbolic gifts can provide much needed encouragement to a friend on an infertility journey. Maybe a piece of jewelry with the word "hope" or one of those Willow Tree figurines with a special meaning... a tiny trinket or a simple card can go a long way when it carries such rich encouragement with it. Proverbs 12:25, "Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up." 

4. Suspend judgment and advice. Whether your friend has decided to do a fourth round of IVF or decline treatment and live child-free, I can almost guarantee you that she's thought about all her other options and she does not need you to do anything but believe that she is choosing the right path for herself. In the rare case that you feel you have absolutely vital information for her to consider, try phrasing your advice like this, "I wanted to tell you that I recently heard about (acupuncture? adoption from foster care? etc?) and if you ever want to hear about it I'd love to tell you about it." You are giving her the opportunity to say, "Okay thanks," and move on in the conversation, or she can ask to hear more and you can keep talking. Putting the conversational ball in her court is a good idea! Proverbs 18: 19 & 21, "It's harder to make amends with an offended friend than to capture a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with iron bars.... Those who love to talk will experience the consequences, for the tongue can kill or nourish life" (NLT). 

5. Hope. The infertility journey is littered with fear and doubt. There have been many times when I've felt hopeless for myself but been buoyed up by friends who have sustained hope for me. It means so much to me when my loved ones say, "I believe this will happen for you!" The absolute best thing anyone ever wrote me was a friend who wrote, "I will hope for you, even when you can't hope for yourself." Proverbs 18:14, "The human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?" 


What about you? Have you been blessed by a friend on your infertility journey? Or have you found a way to encourage someone else on her path? Please share! 


  1. Anonymous4/22/2014

    It is true, saying nothing hurts the most. Or when you pour out your heart to someone you thought would talk with you and try to help, hearing things like, "its between you and God" does not help. already know that! If anyone is reading this and has a loved one who is struggling with infertility, please know that they are fighting a day to day battle of fear, pain, uncertainty, sometimes embarrassment, guilt, and often a battle to maintain hope. And maybe don't assume that just because they are dealing with infertility that they cant handle ANY baby stuff/talk. Don't exclude them from things because you are trying to be sensitive to their feelings. Ask, don't assume. Be someone positive in their negative situation.

    1. I think, "Ask, don't assume." is such good advice. There is common ground on the infertility path, but we can't forget that each woman's journey is uniquely experienced. She knows best what she needs! Ask her! Thanks for your comment.

  2. Oh this is so good! My husband and I aren't "out" concerning our infertility for fear of the influx of well meaning advice that may come our way. The best thing our friends that know have done is pray. It melts my heart when my buds shoot me a text that says - hey we prayed for you today -

  3. These are great suggestions! I know I might have said it before but I keep on being surprised about how closely your struggle with infertility echos my struggle with chronic illness. So much of what you write could apply to my situations & it so often encourages me. This list of suggestions for friends could apply just as well to someone with an illness. I have been SO encouraged by people texting or writing just to encourage me, tell me that they're praying for me. 'Suspend judgement and advice' is an invaluable one, I'm never sure how to deal with unwanted advice! But I think the last one is the best - there are so many people holding on to hope for healing for me. At times I can't help but doubt or get down but these precious people never doubt it for me, they're praying with faith and expectation that God will move in my life and that's a pretty amazing gift! :)


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