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Infertility Awareness Week: 5 Ways to Support Her Through IVF

Infertility Awareness Week: 5 Ways to Support Her Through IVF

Seeing a dear family member or friend go through the turmoil of infertility and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) can be, dare I say, an incredibly emotional experience. It is quite a sensitive topic to discuss, let alone power through it! Often, we don't know the right thing to say or do to support our females enduring the rollercoaster of medical procedures, fertility injections, and dodging between feelings of hope and disappointment.

These powerful women need more than just a friend or a tap on the shoulder. They need to feel understood and accepted and, most importantly, have their boundaries respected. I will not pretend there is a catalogue of how you can offer support because there isn't one. However, based on conversations with women who persevered through this demanding path, here are five tips they considered supportive of their journey.

1.         Listen with empathy

This journey is tangled with complex emotions that the woman herself may not be able to comprehend or accept. Listening is an invaluable gift that you can offer her. Listen with care and compassion, as this provides a safe space for her to express herself without feeling judged. Empathy in this context can mean hearing them out without offering your advice.

One of the women who went through the journey of IVF said, "I went to 12 different doctors and four different surgical procedures to be able to become a mother, so I felt extremely hurt by people giving me advice because they have no idea what I go through daily. I think it's best to ask your friend or relative if it's ok to open the topic before giving unsolicited advice." Any woman going through an IVF journey has probably already familiarized herself comprehensively with everything related to the subject matter, and sharing your opinion might be counterproductive.

2.         Educate yourself

A significant way you can help is by knowing what it entails to go through IVF or have infertility challenges. Sometimes, understanding the basics of the treatments and their possible side effects helps you gain perspective into the toll it takes on her mental health and her body. That equips you to be more empathetic and makes you a more informed supporter, especially as she shares her experience with you.

Getting perspective from a heroine who recently concluded her IVF journey, she said, "Infertility and IVF are, unfortunately, considered taboo. The media doesn't discuss it enough, and pop culture rarely mentions it. If you want to help someone you love going through IVF, you must know about it first to put yourself in their shoes."

3.         Be patient

Women going through any hormonal treatment go through significant ups and downs, causing their emotions to shift unexpectedly. This path can be unpredictable – not only psychologically but also in terms of treatment plans and expectations. The candle of hope can be blown out at any minute, leaving her disappointed and helpless.

One of the female warriors commented, "From black and blue bruises to water weight and jeans that don't fit like before and even unwelcomed nausea, the journey was tough. I wish people would know that the unexpected outbursts, anger and sadness are all a result of the tons of hormones the woman is on to prep for IVF." Therefore, you must be patient if she is agitated or cancels plans when she doesn't like socializing. That again adds to her feelings of being in a safe space and wholeheartedly accepted.

4.         Respect her privacy

Boundaries. Boundaries. Boundaries. Women going through infertility or treatments like IVF can be at war with themselves and their bodies, often feeling like their own reproductive system has failed them. They can feel betrayed by the very thing that gives them a sense of femininity, leaving them feeling less of a woman. I am not claiming that this is the case; quite the contrary. These women are mighty and feminine in their own way. What I am trying to convey here is that she might prefer not to go into the details of her treatments or not share anything at all. Respect that, and don't hammer her with unnecessary questions to feed your curiosity. 

Gathering insight from a couple who battled infertility, they shared that “People have a terrible habit of asking newly married couples about their plans to conceive without being aware that infertility is at the highest level it's ever been! It’s very much possible that the couple you're asking have problems conceiving and querying about it may add salt to the wound. You don't know what they may be going through to make it happen.”

5.         Offer practical help

IVF and similar infertility treatments can come with a lot of physical side effects. Women going through it can get their batteries quickly drained and feel unable to carry out day-to-day activities. Offering practical help, such as helping with household chores or buying her a meal, may be simple but can be a great source of relief. Such small acts of kindness can make all the difference in her eyes and help her cope with feeling overwhelmed.

A woman who went through a comprehensive IVF journey commented that support groups also make a difference in keeping her overall mental wellness in check. She said, "People offering help to heroes going through IVF are extremely humane, compassionate and a necessary support system. From online social media forums and groups to real-life and one-on-one meetings, help is essential to keep a woman's sanity during the process."

Remember, the treatment of infertility can be one of the most complex, most challenging tests that life can throw at a woman. A woman is a natural caregiver, and it's only normal for her to bring life to life. When she realizes her inability to do so, it crushes her. The process is draining, full of stressful moments, and a dreadful waiting game. Supportive care can be achieved through small yet impactful gestures such as being consistent, considerate, and compassionate in your interactions with her. Be by her side through setbacks and victories and give her space to breathe and process it all.

By Mai Elsayed, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Life Coach and Reiki Healer


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