Should You Tell Friends and Family About Your Infertility?

The Benefits of Sharing and How to Decide Who to Tell

two friends chatting in a cafe
Don't keep everything to yourself. Reach out for support. MACIEJ NOSKOWSKI / Getty Images

Finding support when dealing with infertility is essential. Friends and family can lend some of that support, but only if you tell them you're struggling. They may not give perfect support, but even imperfect support is better than none.

So, the question isn’t so much should you tell friends and family members, but exactly which individuals you should open up to?

Considering the pros and cons of telling particular people can help you make the best choice.

The Benefits of Sharing

One benefit to sharing is you'll get less questions about on when you plan to have kids, like the dreaded, "When are you going to have kids?

Want-to-be grandparents can be pushy if they think you’re choosing not to have kids. If you tell them that you’re trying but having problems, they may stop pressuring you.

Telling your friends about your infertility problems can help when potentially uncomfortable situations arise, such as baby showers.

It’s totally normal to feel uneasy about attending a baby shower or other baby-related parties, and many women coping with infertility turn invitations down.

If your friends know about your infertility, they will probably be more understanding.

But the number one benefit of sharing is getting support.

When you feel ill from some fertility medication you’re taking, or down after another negative pregnancy test, being able to call your sister, cousin, or friend can really help.

Possible Pitfalls

With that said, there are some possible pitfalls to sharing.

People don’t always know how to react to delicate information like this. It isn’t that they don’t want to be helpful, but that they’re just not sure how.

    Some may react in a "let me fix it" way, flooding you with research studies they have read or stories they have heard.

    Others may try to make you feel that there's an easy solution.

    “Oh, don’t worry about it, you can always do IVF,” they may say, not knowing how expensive and invasive it is, or that IVF is not a guarantee.

    Family may react with blaming. “If only you didn’t wait to have kids,” they might say, even if you're only in your mid-twenties.

    Some friends may become extra uncomfortable, and feel afraid to tell you anything about their pregnancy or new babies.

    In some ways, it’s better than them only talking about their pregnancy or babies. On the other hand, it introduces a huge elephant into the room that everyone is afraid to talk about.

    Deciding Who to Tell

    With these benefits and possible pitfalls in mind, how do you decide exactly who to tell?

    Telling your parents may be a good idea, but only if they are not the type to react with blaming or excessive advice-giving.

    You probably know by now whether or not telling your parents is a good idea. Ask yourself which is easier—dealing with the occasional "When are you going to have kids" question, or listening to how all of this is "your fault?"

    Some of the best support may come from your siblings or cousins.

    The ideal is to find a few good people to confide in—just enough to have someone to call on those bad days, or to make comforting eye-contact with at family gatherings if an inappropriate comment is made.

    The same goes with friends.

    You know your friends best, and you can probably quickly check off who not to tell. (The advice givers, the blamers, and those who don’t do well in sticky social situations, for example.)

    Don’t feel obligated to tell someone just because he or she is a good friend. It may be that your best friend isn’t the best person to confide in, and that a good friend at work would be the perfect person to seek support from.

    Make choices based on what’s best for you, and not based on who you think "deserves" to know.

    You also have the option to tell everyone about your infertility struggles. You might make the announcement on social media, or you might have a trying to conceive blog you write.

    There are pros and cons to telling the world. Some of the biggest benefits are support from many people, the ability to share your struggles without fear of "being found out," and, if it comes up, easier crowdfunding, if you decide to fund your fertility treatments this way.

    Plus, when you speak out about infertility, you're advocating for the entire trying to conceive community. That's a big deal.

    On the other hand, you also have to be ready to deal with inappropriate comments and people who don't know how to handle these subjects in a sensitive way. If you feel like you can, then go for it.

    Support from Other Couples Dealing with Infertility

    It’s important to also have support from those who understand infertility. A local support group, such as RESOLVE, or an online infertility community are terrific resources.

    While your very best friend may be a great listener, you still may want to talk to people who can say, “I get it, because I’ve been there.”

    Remember that even though your fertile friends and family truly do want to support and understand, it may be difficult for them, having not gone through the same challenges.

    More on coping with infertility:                                

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