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How To Tell Your Friends and Family You’re Infertile (And Then Cope With The Fallout)

By Guest Contributor

By Cecily Kellog of

Once you’re in a solid long-term marriage or relationship, there are going to be people who ask, “When are you going to start a family?” It’s unavoidable. If you publicly admit to trying to start your family, and then have trouble conceiving, it’s good to have a plan to cope with the questions you’ll get afterwards.

Just tell the truth.

It might seem easier to keep your struggle to start a family to yourself, but it can be an exhausting, emotionally draining time in your life and it’s really best to have the love and support of your friends and family while you go through it. You can limit those to whom you tell the truth, but it is absolutely critical that you have someone out there to whom you can turn on those dark days when the pregnancy test is negative yet again. Choose wisely, but be prepared: there is a lot of misinformation out there, and some questions you get might seem hostile.

Simplify the facts.

If people ask WHY you are having trouble (and you want to tell them), create a short, yet sweet answer that explains it quickly and doesn’t leave a lot of room for questions you don’t want to answer. If you want to make people stop asking about details, a great way to do that is to mention body parts that people don’t want to hear about, such as, “Well, my uterus is malformed” or “My semen contains a sperm-killing antibody” or “My cervical mucous is hostile.” See? They’re walking away now, aren’t they? Nothing kills off nosy people like talk of cervical mucous.

Be prepared for The Stupid.

You’re going to get a TON of stupid advice, ranging from “Just relax!” (which totally works when you have a diminished egg reserve or it turns out your husband has a zero sperm count) to “Quit trying so hard, it will happen in God’s time!” Have a plan for how to cope with this stupidity, other than smashing the question-asker in the head with a nearby object. You can either carry charts and graphs and overwhelm that person into silence with scientific information, or just practice smiling and saying, “What a great idea!” over and over to your mirror at home.

Prepare Your Adoption Argument.

People are going to ask, “Why don’t you just adopt?” This question is loaded: it intimates that you are being selfish to want your own biological progeny. Sometimes you can use financial arguments; it is, in fact, far less expensive to pursue infertility treatments than adoption, particularly domestic adoption. But, the best way to respond to this question is to avoid it with some vague response like, “That’s always an option.” Then there are also the folks that say, “My co-worker’s cousin adopted and got pregnant right away!” as if adopted children are the ultimate fertility drug. Just ignore these people. There’s no reasoning with them.

Make New Friends Who Understand.

The good news is you are not alone when struggling with infertility. There are thousands of us out here, all struggling along with you. Find them. Find them through your infertility clinic’s support groups, find them on the Internet on message boards and in blogs, but find them. The best person to help you through the darkest times of fertility struggles is another infertile person.

Guest Contributor
About the Author

Guest Contributor

We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.


We often publish pieces by guest contributors. If you’re interested in being one, please drop us a line at contact[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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  • Jen B

    June 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Great advice. IFers have to suffer through a neverending avalance of stupid from insensitive fertiles.

  • kell

    June 10, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    how about a Part Two to this column for how to support a friend who IS struggling with this? …’cause I really don’t know what to say without sounding completely lame/insensitive/patronizing/stupid. is there even anything that can be said that is remotely helpful or comforting?
    Editor: I think that sounds like a great idea

  • Jamie

    June 11, 2009 at 11:09 am

    I agree with Kell, I’d like to hear some ways I can support friends who are going through this without sounding like an ass as a part 2!
    Editor: Thank you. We LOVE getting feedback like this.

  • amy

    June 11, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    great post. Such good support and information.

  • Cindy

    June 12, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Great column, I think I heard each and everyone of these when we were having fertility issues. You’re so emotional at this time, that it takes a lot of pre-thinking to deal with these questions. Think ahead. For people who have friends going through it, listen. Don’t pry too much, but be there.

  • Sheri

    June 14, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    This article is great. I was always pretty forthcoming with the whole infertility scenerio. And even after I mentioned no sperm count people would tell us to relax or something equally stupid. I think that many times, people don’t know what to say. I also see/hear this all the time in regards to my children being on the autism spectrum. I think that people just don’t know what to say about this kind of stuff. It makes them uncomfortable and it isn’t something that they can fix.

  • Kate

    July 1, 2013 at 6:31 am

    I have been married for a little over 2 years and family members and friends are HOUNDING me about when we are going to start having babies… I have PCOS so the outlook is not so great. My hubby doesn’t want to tell anyone yet, but they don’t corner him and ask the same question a million different ways. So I just smile and say oh I don’t know and then internally cry for the rest of the visit. It’s very difficult to just want it all to end!!!!