What defines infertility?
Infertility is a disease of the reproductive system. One third (30%) of infertility can be attributed to male factors, and about one third (30%) can be attributed to female factors. In about 20% of cases infertility is unexplained, and the remaining 10% of infertility is caused by a combination of problems in both partners.
How is infertility diagnosed?
Infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying to conceive. If you are over the age of 35, the time of trying to conceive is reduced to 6 months. It is important to see a specialist, or a Reproductive Endocrinologist, or in some cases your OB/Gyn or urologist for a complete fertility work-up and diagnosis.
When should a specialist be consulted?
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, you should seek the care of a specialist if you are unable to achieve pregnancy after 12 months of unprotected intercourse and the women is under the age of 35, six months if the women is more than 35 years of age. You should also seek the care of a specialist if you have had more than one pregnancy loss.
As with any disease, ailment, or challenge in life, it is impossible to truly understand what that individual is going through unless you’ve walked in their footsteps. If you are a loved one of a couple unable to or having a difficult time to conceive, please take time to visit the following links and read the information posted below the links. Your loved ones who are having difficultly conceiving will greatly appreciate it!
Infertility Etiquette – Is an excellent article that appeared on RESOLVE – The National Infertility Association website.
Infertility Etiquette – Great article from the website Dancing Upon Barren Land.
Tears and Hope – A powerful video from infertility awareness project.
Suggestions of Hurtful Things NOT to Say and Do
“So you are infertile. Who’s ‘fault’ is it?” These are issues couples must go through together. Placing blame on one spouse or the other is destructive. Often, there is not even a preventable cause for these situations, thus blame breeds false guilt and added, unnecessary pain.
“Don’t worry. You are still young. You have plenty of time.” Each month passing without a child is another loss. As certain medical causes of infertility can also bring early sterility, youth is no guarantee of reproductive time. While relative youth may be a biological advantage for some, being young may also mean more years of pain for some. Inability to conceive during a woman’s “most fertile years” (prior to age 25) may cause her to feel hopeless for the future.
“At least you have one.” Intense joy and intense grief can both be experienced at once. Having one child does not lessen the heartache of longing for another.
“You have only been trying for…” Length of time does not always parallel with depth of grief. In some ways a couple who has been trying for a year or two is at an emotional disadvantage compared to a couple who has had years of infertility experience to teach them coping skills.
“Just relax (or go on vacation, or adopt a baby) and you will get pregnant.” The word “relax” is one of the most frustrating words ever said to infertile couples. It is a proven fact infertility is not caused by stress in most cases, but rather infertility is a major cause of stress. Relaxing, going on a vacation, or adopting a baby will not cause an infertile couple to miraculously get pregnant! In fact, adopting a baby statistically lowers a couple’s chances of natural conception.
Pregnancy and Infant Loss
“At least it was early.” A child is valuable from conception onward. The level of a parent’s attachment is not dependent on gestational age. Even though parents had little time to know their child, they are not only grieving the baby loss, but also the dreams of who that child would become.
“At least you can get pregnant!” The ability to get pregnant once (or even multiple times) does not guarantee future fertility. Sometimes a pregnancy loss can cause complications directly impairing future chances of conception. Even if this couple does get pregnant easily, they are still mourning a special baby they are now unable to share their lives with.
“You will get pregnant again.” Each child is unique. No person can ever “replace” another. Looking toward another child to ease the pain of loss is like telling a woman who has just lost her husband everything is fine because she can remarry.
“Your child is better off now.” Grieving parents are longing for their children on this earth. Let them grieve the death of their children without trying to make them rejoice too quickly over eternity together.
“It was probably for the best.” This statement is often used with the justification the child might have been born with handicaps. Such a statement is received by grieving parents as a low view of the value of their child’s life. In cases where a handicapped child dies after birth, the loss may be felt even more greatly simply because a handicapped child often takes more time and attention from his parents, thus leaving a more obvious “missing” part to every day when the child is gone.
“Call if you need anything.” While this one may sound quite helpful, most parents are too numb at the time of loss to know what will be most helpful. Rather than asking them to let you know if they need “anything”, be specific when you make your offer such as asking, “May we bring a meal on Monday?” or “What part of the memorial service arrangements may we help you with?” The more specific you are, the more likely they will be to accept your offer of help. If they don’t wish any help at this time, respect this choice and don’t push.
“I know exactly how you feel.” Even if you have gone through very similar situations, no two people feel the same way, are in the same place spiritually at the same time, nor have the same reactions to situations. To insist you know exactly how another feels is insulting to their individual needs.
“Everything will turn out okay.” Faith is a wonderful gift, but there might be another plan for your life. These statements are often more painful than healing at times of great struggle.
“At least…” Any statement starting with these two words diminishes the value of another’s experiences and feelings!
Suggestions for Helpful Things TO Say and Do
Just as there are statements that should be avoided, some actions and statements can bring healing. Depending on the comfort level and personalities of individual members, physical touch can be very healing by simply reaching out and holding the hand of one who is struggling or giving them a quick hug. None of us have to have all the answers, nor try to give lectures and “fix” everything for everyone in the group. Silence is often the best thing to “say” to any hurting person, as you listen. The most healing words are often simple, honest ones from the heart:
“I’m so sorry…
…that you are hurting so much.”
…that your baby died.”
…that you are feeling this way.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
“We are here for you. What can I do for you right now?” As noted in the list of things not to say, please be specific when you offer help. Leaving it open to “Call if you need anything.” is not as helpful as finding a specific area of need and meeting it. If there isn’t anything to be done “right now,” other than listening and praying, be sure to check back with some specific ideas of ways you can help in the coming days and weeks.
“I am praying for you.” Then be sure to follow through on your commitment to pray!
“I do not know exactly how you feel, but I hurt with you.”
If both you and the hurting couple are religious, pray with and for them.
If you ever feel the need for tears, it is fine to cry. Grief shared is grief divided.
If you know the baby’s name in pregnancy or infant loss, most parents appreciate when you call their child by name.
Send cards and/or emails of encouragement.
Call frequently to ask how they are doing.
Listen without always offering advice or saying what you would do.
Tell them you support them and will be there for them. It is important to offer support in words as well as actions.
Attend funeral/memorial service.
Give a small gift to grieving parents in memory of their baby. Yes, it is painful but the parents will treasure it. Acknowledging their baby’s existence is the best gift of all.
If you are religious, ask God for wisdom to help you minister to the individual needs of hurting couples.