Infertility is emotionally exhausting, time consuming and expensive. Between the fluctuating emotions, the frequency of the appointments and the side effects of the medications, it can cause significant levels of stress for the couples undergoing treatment.
According to Los Angeles based infertility specialist Marc Kalan, M.D., "Infertility treatment is uniquely stressful because it requires such a significant emotional investment from both members of the relationship. Therefore, the support one normally relies upon from their spouse or partner might not be available."
Friends can provide emotional support during infertility treatment. "Whether they are directly involved by helping to inject medicine or indirectly involved by providing a listening ear, friends can contribute greatly to the success of infertility treatment," continues Dr. Kalan.
Not only is infertility emotionally exhausting, but it can also be very confusing at times. There are numerous tests, treatments and options to consider, and sorting through the information can be overwhelming.
Lane Gulotta appreciates the support her friends provided, "The infertility process is very intimate and emotional for women. The most important thing you can do for a friend going through this process is to listen to her."
Active listening is always a great place to start when helping a friend. Chances are you won't have the answers, but you can ask questions and provide empathy. Elizabeth Flora Ross, who supported multiple friends through the process, agrees, "I try to remember that you don't always have to say something. You can just be a shoulder to cry on."
Offer to help
Infertility often requires regular medical visits and can involve frequent injections or other uncomfortable procedures. Given the time commitment, it's not always possible for a spouse or partner to be there every step of the way.
Friends can offer to help with rides, providing distraction during the endless waits in the waiting room and even with medication. "I've seen good friends provide support by helping with injecting medications, providing transportation to and from appointments and simply being there," says Dr. Kalan.
Gulotta recalls a time when a friend attended an appointment with her, "The kindest gesture from a friend was the offer to sit with me while I had labs and ultrasounds done. We gossiped about the latest episode of Gossip Girl and what our weekend plans would be."
A good book, a home cooked meal, a funny movie or a glass of wine can all help women feel cared about and supported during infertility. When life is difficult, people need comfort.
"Just like a toddler who needs to tantrum, I need to let it out. And what I need from my friends and family is to let me feel the pain," says Christina Murphy.
Rachel Pitzel did her best to provide comfort to her friend, "I would ask how it was going and provide encouragement. When she was feeling down, I bought her a massage to help her relax."
Check in frequently, listen and provide comfort. Your friend will thank you for it.