The Things You Should Never, EVER Say to Someone Experiencing Fertility Issues

Fertility Issues


In the 3 years prior to conceiving my daughter, I spent 7 months on clomid, did what seemed like endless months of injections and ultrasounds through failed IUI’s and IVF’s, had 4 early miscarriages, and had 3 surgeries just months apart on my pelvic region. There were also complications like ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, 4 ovarian cyst ruptures, one pregnancy/miscarriage I shockingly didn’t know about until I hemorrhaged badly the night before my second surgery, mysterious things growing inside of me… Sadly, I could go on and on. Each of the three surgeries uncovered new problems that hadn’t been addressed, and revealed that the prior fertility treatments were completely futile, which only added to the pain and frustration. In the end I was told to give up and have a hysterectomy at the age of 33, but persevered and had the third and final surgery, which was successful and I was pregnant with my daughter 2 months later.

After having my daughter, I had two more losses, with my 6th most recent miscarriage being in the fourth month of pregnancy. So I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’ve been around the infertility block, and that I can provide an insider’s perspective on the issue.

Online forums were a tremendous source of support for me in the beginning, before I became more outspoken about our issues to help lift some of the taboo surrounding them. I have witnessed numerous posts where women vent about the well intended advice that has been bestowed upon them. I’m finally going to speak up for all the frustrated ladies out there I know — you know who you are.

This post is for those women. I am not saying that the people who say these things are not well meaning, or that they don’t care about the person involved. However, someone needs to come forward and let these people know that the things they are saying are not as helpful as they intend for them to be.  So here it is:

 The Things You Should Never, EVER Say to Someone Experiencing Fertility Issues:


“It’s part of God’s plan/God has a plan for us all.”

OK so first, they may or may not even believe in God, in which case you could be supremely irritating them if they don’t. On the off chance that you happen to know for sure that they do, I’m sorry, but that’s pretty sadistic to make people go through such a thing to have a child. If God exists and what we’ve gone through is his plan for me, then I have a few things to say to God, and the conversation isn’t going to be pretty. I’ve heard many (not all, but many) who DO believe in God that are equally troubled by this completely uncomforting statement and share this sentiment.


“When it’s meant to happen, it will happen.”

If you have ever uttered this phrase, then LISTEN UP! When you say this to a person, chances are they are smiling politely while envisioning in their head that they are kicking you in the shins and running away. Seriously people, this is definitely one of the top peeves among the infertility forums when we rant about this stuff. JUST…DON’T…SAY IT! It’s not comforting, it’s not helpful and it’s kind of implying that I’m meant to lose a baby at 16 weeks, have a failed IVF, have a chemical pregnancy…whatever the situation is at the time. Don’t say it – that is all.


“Everything happens for a reason.”

This is a variation on the phrase above, and people love to offer their omniscient wisdom regarding the tragic events of your life. Yet another solicitor for fantasized shin kicks, this unhelpful phrase will guarantee that the person you are speaking to will probably never seek solace in your words again.


“Just relax and it will happen!” -or- “I know ‘so and so’ and when they stopped trying they got pregnant!”

I feel obligated to add this after the overwhelming response, mostly because I forgot it and feel as strongly about it as the rest of you.  For us, “relaxing” was not an option, because without assistance I sometimes couldn’t even get my period on my own, much less ovulate, so the notion that we should “stop trying” to get pregnant was out of the question.  I would like to find a person who finds it relaxing to inject yourself twice a day with emotion altering hormones, squeeze ultrasounds every other day into your schedule, have your swollen, tender ovaries stabbed to remove eggs, try to recover before embryos are implanted, and then wait for results.  Might as well be in the Caribbean sipping Pina Coladas… It sounds SO RELAXING!  Furthermore, I was playing beat the clock on losing my uterus, and in intense pain from my afflictions like adenomyosis.  Whatever the situation is, you never know if that person has the option to simply “stop trying” and you certainly can’t guarantee they’ll be just like your Aunt Maureen and get pregnant when they do, so please keep these anecdotes to yourself.


“You can always adopt./Have you considered adoption?”

Well thank you, Captain Obvious! If you find yourself saying this, then you might as well stamp your forehead with a sign that says, “I’m completely ignorant and unsympathetic to your need to have a child.” We all know adoption is potentially an option, yet may not be financially attainable for some. Regardless of whether it’s a viable possibility or not, many of us have an aching in our heart to be pregnant, and to give birth to a baby. Bringing up adoption only widens the gaping wound in our soul that we may never be able to give birth to the baby that we long for.

So what CAN I say, you ask? For starters, don’t say anything. Listen, wipe their tears, give them hugs, check on them, and try to understand that their pain is very, very real, even though there may not be something tangible like a terminal illness or the loss of a person everyone knew that is causing it. Second, realize that they may be out of their minds under hormonal influence! I was never myself on those awful shots and pills, and it made it all the more difficult to cope with the emotional pain.

Ultimately, just show them that you care. Don’t offer them platitudes. Instead, offer to cook them dinner when they get home from their IVF egg retrieval and their ovaries are swollen like grapefruits. Drag them out to a funny movie when they find out that yet another cycle and round of daily injections in the belly have failed … again. Call them to check on them weeks after they’ve lost a pregnancy, just to see how they’re doing. Caring about their pain and not wincing or changing the subject just because it may involve mentions of ovaries or semen is the absolute BEST thing you can do! Overall, just be present. We get it that you will never be able to be truly empathetic to our suffering if you haven’t been through it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be there for us.

About Amy Serotkin

Amy Serotkin is dedicated to sustainable living and finding ways to eliminate toxins in her home.  She is an avid organic gardener and cook, and is always looking for more ways to challenge herself to lessen her family’s ecological imprint.

Her website,, shares with consumers the information she’s found on toxins and eco friendly products that help eliminate disposables or toxin exposure.  She also hopes to highlight smaller retailers, crafters and manufacturers.

20 thoughts on “The Things You Should Never, EVER Say to Someone Experiencing Fertility Issues”

  1. Thank you for this!! And might I add “Just relax and it will happen” and “Don’t think about it so much” – both a variation of that being tense or stressed out is solely the reason. I have come to realize through my experience with infertility that it is ok to say nothing rather than offer meaningless words of comfort that actually hurt when people are suffering through something unexplainable.

  2. Can I add, “Well, you never know,” as a response to the “Our fertility road is over, there won’t be any (more) children in our future” statement. Because, um, yes, I DO know. I could theoretically change my mind and try again, but when you have one or both partners who are totally sterile and your ONLY chance of conception is through artificial means, then when you say “It’s over,” it’s over.
    And thank you for the “Have you considered adoption” response. I think I’m going to start answering, “Thank you, Captain Obvious” when I get that one. For reasons I really probably don’t want to explain to every person who asks, after years of careful consideration, research, and contact with adoption counselors, we eventually ruled out adoption as an option for our family.

  3. I would like to add the “I know how you feel because it took us ___ months to get pregnant.” or the other wonderful, “you should be grateful you have the one child.”My husband and I dealt with secondary infertility and had to go through numerous rounds of IUI and two IVF’s. Infertility is so emotionally damaging, and I think it is difficult to understand unless you have been through it. I still avoid baby showers, and have a tendency to avoid talking about pregnancy.

  4. I’ll add, as this is the one that still haunts me from my most recent 16 week loss; “Honey, you didn’t want that baby. That baby wasn’t perfect. This is how nature takes care of imperfections.”

  5. This is a great article. Something that was said to me was, “Well, at least ___________________ didn’t happen to you.

  6. Totally agree with all of this. I’m pregnant and hopeful after 3 1/2 years of TTC, two early miscarriages and several chemical pregnancies. “Just relaxing” will not help babies stick better if my hormones are not doing what they need to do to support a pregnancy. Since I’m Christian and part of a faith community I also get a lot of the God’s Will stuff. I don’t think it’s God’s will for anyone to lose babies. But we live in an imperfect world and things happen. I even feel a little bad praying for this one to stick because I don’t believe I lost the others because I didn’t pray enough. And I hate “it’ll happen eventually” because really, it might not, and if it doesn’t eventually we’re going to be too old to keep trying. There really aren’t any platitudes for people dealing with fertility issues that are actually helpful.

  7. You could also add for us younger IF sufferers, “You’re still young! You’ve got plenty of time!” Yeah, actually, I want to start my family NOW, not in 10 years, and suffering from IF when you’re young and SUPPOSED to be fertile is pretty devastating. (Not that suffering from IF when you are older isn’t!) I can’t count the number of times I was told that I was young, or that we had just gotten married, we needed to be patient and/or just enjoy ourselves in the time before I got pregnant with our son. I know those comments came from a place of love, but denying someone’s pain is never helpful.

    I do believe God has a plan for everyone, and that it is not always what we want or expect. However, that knowledge is only comforting if you come to that conclusion yourself, based on your own faith. Having someone else tell you that is meaningless.

  8. A great article. Thank you. People just don’t get it. I was one of those people when I was having babies easily. But now I have been ttc to four years and I know the sadness and pain that accompanies month after month of negative tests, then the hope that is shattered when you miscarry for a second and third time. I have heard so many hurtful comments, particularly as I already have children: “This is God’s way of telling you that you have enough children”, “If it were meant to be, you wouldn’t have miscarried”, “This baby wouldn’t have been perfect, so you are better off”(from the nurse at my D&C after miscarrying a second time, when I was coming out of the anasthetic and crying), “surely you have you hands full enough already, why would you want another child?”. None of those carefully thought out statements helped me understand or cope with the loss of my babies.

  9. As much as I completely agree with this article and the sentiments in it, I REALLY wish it didn’t have a picture of a newborn baby right at the top. When I was going through infertility hell, I would have found that incredibly insensitive, and even now I’m reluctant to pass this link on to friends who are currently experiencing infertility. Surely there is another way to visually represent the pain of women (and men) who experience infertility other than waving a picture

  10. Ok, First, I get it, I haven’t had any issues falling pregnant, ever, but my mother did and lots of issues, she never carried to term. However, infertility isn’t something you can just expect others to shut up and listen to, people naturally want to help, when it comes to “just relax” we know its hard, we know its probably never going to happen but the need to try and help is so overwhelming that you aren’t going to stop hearing it. I completely understand your frustration and tears and anger at some of these phrases… Honestly, I do… to not speak openly about how you have considered adoption and then to not explain why actually carrying yourself is so important to you is to breed ignorance. Your attempt to encourage people to speak openly about fertility issues and to remove the taboo surrounding it is crippled by the people suffering themselves continuing to enhance the taboo by wanting to kick people who are trying to get you to open up and talk… we want to hear the frustration, we don’t mind the anger, we don’t even mind the “are you an idiot, RELAX! you have got to be kidding! THIS is what I’m going through” because all in all it lets the rest of us know what the hell its like….
    I’m adopted, my mother had 14 miscarriages between adopting my brother and adopting me, she had 3 rounds of IVF and one miscarriage happened a week after she had heard the heartbeat. The next week her ultrasound looked like she had never had an embryo in there at all. I get it. Not everyone has my experience. Help others understand what you are going through, please don’t push them away.

  11. I would like to add an alternative opinion. I think I heard all of these things said to me by one person or another (friends, family, healthcare professionals etc) on many occasions and I did not find any of them either upsetting or frustrating. Every woman and every situation is different. I am certain that 99.99% of the comments were made with good faith and because baby loss is still such a taboo subject I was grateful for anyone who had the decency to actually address it for what it was. My charming boss at the time of my first loss emailed the entire management team at work to tell them all that I was off sick because of ‘women’s issues’. Now that is offensive – but people genuinely trying to reach out to you personally in your grief are not doing so to upset you they really are only trying to help. It is hard, whilst grieving I know, to see the positive in things but I don’t think that it is helpful to say that you should Never, EVER say x,y or z to someone experiencing fertility issues. Every friendship and relationship works in a different way and people should be encouraged to talk openly without fear of treading on eggshells on what is hard enough a subject as it is.

  12. O.K., for Tgent and MayaT, here is what I would suggest, and this is actually what I would suggest you say not just to friends experiencing fertility issues but to friends experiencing any difficult situation that you haven’t personally been through and in which you do not have any particular expertise.

  13. @tranquilpeace – it is one thing to answer patiently if you have invited the question, but people often ask for your plans for a(nother) baby, or offer advice unbidden.

  14. It took me a year after stopping taking bcp before I fell pregnant with our 1st and in that time I had only 5 or 6 periods and cycles that ranged from 31 days to 73 days! I fell pregnant on a 73 days cycle and was less than a month away from being referred for investigations by the 3rd doctor I’d seen about the issue! She was the only one who took me seriously and didn’t say I should relax or it’ll happen when it happens or you’re young and instead said that the next time I’d see her I’d be telling her I’m pregnant and if it hadn’t happened in the next 2 months that she’d refer me. It says something that those were the best words I could have heard at that point! Mercifully I’ve not experienced anywhere near the difficulties that some women endure and after my tiny glimpse into the world of fertility issues I am truly thankful that I’ve not had those experiences and am astounded by the strength of the women who do! In that year I heard some variation of all of those, with the exception of the one about adoption, as well as ‘you’re still young, you have plenty of time’ (I was only 21-22 at the time), usually from medical professionals and loved ones, and they inevitably just made me feel worse, despite knowing that their hearts were in the right place. It didn’t help when I was 4 weeks late, throwing up every morning but had 30 negative pregnancy tests telling me that my body was lying to me. It didn’t help when my period came days after I lost my job and so felt useless and a failure anyway. It didn’t help when I just needed to be emotional and talk to someone about things because I didn’t want to burden my husband with anything more as I knew he was hurting too. When we were ttc our 2nd it was horrible as I was terrified it would be hard again and take a long time again or take even longer this time but I was left feeling that my fears didn’t matter because it had happened the first time so it would happen again. As it happened, we were blessed again much more quickly and easily and I think it was simply that hormonal contraception for 3.5 years threw my body out massively but the fact is that I’d never expected to have any problems when ttc the first time but I did and so when going back to it my mind was far more open to worries about secondary infertility. I’ve slowly come to realise that I think that sometimes people did think I was over reacting to what was happening and, despite not actually knowing what my body was doing and going through what I could only describe as sort of phantom pregnancies, because I hadn’t actually experienced a miscarriage or major issues my feelings or experiences didn’t count somehow. I just know that if I can be in such a dark place with the difficulties I experienced then I have every respect for the people who cope with much worse. I have an amazing friend who just listens and doesn’t judge and when he’s in the area just offers hugs when I’m feeling low for any reason and got me through that hard year but so few people know how to get it right!

  15. This one is my #1 pet peeve: My friend/cousin/sister’s coworker etc. had acupuncture/had an HSG/drank grape juice/just relaxed/stopped trying/went on vacation/took aspirin every day/lost weight/started on the Insanity exercise program and got pregnant right away! I have literally heard every one of these statements.
    OK, there is something behind most of these. And through the years I’ve read more and more about why weight loss, aspirin, etc. work for certain people. But you don’t know about my conversations with my doctor and this “one weird trick” stuff is truly maddening for a real health problem.
    This applies to any real health problem. More than likely, when someone mentions that they are dealing with something like this, and especially something like sleep problems where you might have experienced a mild form of their medical issue, they are not asking for your advice. They are asking to just be listened to, just have you acknowledge they are going through something.

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