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February 19, 2009

What not to say to infertile friends, family

Posted: 10:41 AM ET

In the fall of 2007 I gave birth to a screaming 8 pound 2 ounce little girl. The nurses in the room cooed, I cried while family and friends joined in the joy of a new life entering the world. This may seem like a very ordinary delivery scene, but it could not be farther from the truth. My little miracle would not be a part of this world without the help of a skilled reproductive endocrinologist – a fertility doctor.

I have been thinking a lot about my situation while helping CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen research this week's Empowered Patient column about infertility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.1 million married couples are infertile. An infertility diagnosis means a couple has had one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse without a pregnancy or the woman suffers from multiple miscarriages. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine says 85 to 90 percent of  infertility cases are treated with conventional medical therapies like surgery or medication.

For people facing infertility, the process of diagnosis and treatment can be emotionally and financially difficult. I have talked to many friends over the years who have also struggled with infertility.

We have come up with a Top Three list of things you should never say to a friend who is having fertility issues:

“JUST RELAX” Infertility is not something that goes away, and a pregnancy will not spontaneously happen, if the couple relaxes. A vacation is not going to cure it. During my treatment, my doctor told me it was a legitimate medical condition that needed attention.

“I HAVE A FRIEND WHO…” A) stopped trying and got pregnant. B) adopted and got pregnant. C) ate a special herb and got pregnant. Friends and stories are great, but when it comes to infertility, offer to listen and learn about the condition, and avoid friendly advice.

“ARE YOU PREGNANT YET?” There are only two answers to this question, and if the answer were yes, you would probably know. Treatment takes a lot of time and commitment. It can take several cycles, which can take months, and may not always result in pregnancy. Every month could be The Month. Trust me, your well-intentioned comment could come at the worst possible moment, the moment your friend finds out that it isn’t The Month.

If you aren't sure what to say or how to show your support, here is a site that you may find helpful.

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Filed under: Empowered Patient • Health


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Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!