02/28/2011 12:48 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Infertility can derail friendships



Dear Irene,

Your recent post Expecting...and feeling let down by friends piqued my interest. My husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for the past six months and it hasn't been an easy road. Due to other health concerns, I've been preparing to try to get pregnant for the past three years, and in the past three months had to undergo additional testing.

All systems are go, but in the ensuing months, my husband and I have felt pressure to conceive. This stress and pressure is primarily from us---but also from our parents, co-workers and friends. Added to this is the "pressure" we feel from other couples in our lives who are currently pregnant, the number jumped from about 2 to 10 in the past six months, including a sibling who accidentally became pregnant. Finally, I work in an environment that requires me to deal with pregnancy every day. Combined, these factors have resulted in some disappointment and stress.

We're doing the best we can to support each other. Right now, I've made it my objective to shelter us from talk of pregnancy and babies, but this is becoming increasingly difficult with the pregnant couples in our lives. We care about our family and friends immensely, but we don't have the energy to discuss their pregnancies or talk about babies right now (not to mention that it doesn't support the baby-making mood).

I will add, although we didn't intend to share that we are "trying", almost all of our friends/family know that we are because I occasionally avoid drinking alcohol in social settings based on my physician's recommendations. How can we best support our expectant friends without stressing ourselves?



Hi Kendra,

Having been in your shoes, I know that not being able to conceive---as quickly as you would like to---is emotionally exhausting and can cast a shadow over other areas of your life. It has to be especially tough when you work in a field associated with pregnancy and babies, and pregnant friends surround you.

Here are some thoughts:

* Emphasize some friendships over others. It's common for pregnant women tend to be self-centered and consumed with their bodies and the baby growing within. Try to spend your time with those pregnant friends who seem to be more sensitive to your feelings.

* Place some relationships on hiatus. Tell the rest of your pregnant friends that although you're ecstatic for them, it's difficult for you to be around too much baby talk right now. If they are good friends, hopefully they'll understand and cut you some slack. When friends have a sense that someone is having health or fertility problems, there's a tendency to ask too many questions, offer an overdose of well-intended advice, or to speak in clichés and happy talk.

* Expand your social ties. Don't stick to pregnant couples alone; reach out to couples with toddlers and older children, couples who've decided they don't want to have children, and couples who are having problems conceiving. Friends in the first two groups aren't likely to be focused on pregnancy and babies.

* Consider joining a support group. Connecting with couples like you, who are having problems conceiving, can help you better cope with both the practical and psychological aspects of infertility. If you don't have friends to talk to openly about your pressures and fears, check out support groups (both in-person and online) that are affiliated with Resolve, the National Infertility Association. It's always reassuring to speak to people who have been through the same dark tunnel as you and have come through the other end.

Infertility can be a source of tremendous stress in relationships with spouses, families and friends, so it's important that you and your husband develop a plan for responding to uninformed or insensitive remarks. In this regard, Resolve has an excellent fact sheet called Telling Family and Friends to help guide couples in sharing their struggles.

Hope this helps!

My best wishes

Other posts on The Friendship Blog touching upon infertility and friendship:

When friendship is a risky business

Have a friendship question or dilemma? Ask The Friendship Doctor.