Baby Care

I’m a fertility expert – here’s 8 things your friends going through IVF wish you knew

KNOWING what to say – and how to say it – can be a minefield.

But you can be a source of strength, says writer Lizzy Dening, who has battled fertility issues herself.

As heartbreaking as it is – not everyone gets their longed-for babyCredit: Getty
Here’s what to say to a loved one going through the challenging process of IVF
Writer Lizzy Dening has battled infertility issues herself

It’s one of life’s most challenging experiences, so if you have a friend or family member going through IVF, it’s a crucial time to offer them support.

Around 53,000 women have IVF every year in the UK, and even with the best intentions, people don’t always know what to say – and can sometimes accidentally make things feel worse.

During my own IVF journey – my first child was conceived through the process – I was surprised by the range of reactions from loved ones.

I know all of them wanted to help, but some were definitely better at supporting me than others.

Here’s what I wish people had known…


Even if you don’t know it, someone in your life might be going through IVF right now.

If pregnancy came easily to you, try to remember that not everyone is as lucky.

Be very cautious about jumping to conclusions.

“People sometimes make big dietary changes or stop drinking in the run-up to or during IVF, and their friends might assume they’re pregnant,” says Kate Brian, operations manager at Fertility Network UK. 

It’s best to keep quiet until they’re willing to share – that’s much better than putting your foot in it!


“People don’t always realise how intrusive and invasive IVF is,” says Kate.

Not only will your friend be taking lots of drugs that can impact her mood and energy levels, but the emotional toll is heavy, and it can be difficult to think about much else.

Try to understand the IVF process before you reach out to a loved oneCredit: Getty

Any given day might include hope, terror, rage, jealousy and numbness. 

They may also be trying to avoid coming down with a cold or Covid, which could interrupt and delay treatment, so they could be isolating – not great when they probably already feel a bit cut off from the rest of the world.

All IVF patients are different. Some may be happy to explain the process, others might appreciate you doing your own research.

Fertility Network UK and Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority have lots of fact sheets available online.


Many of my friends assumed my IVF would be successful.

The urge to be positive is understandable (and some patients may want that kind of support), but I found it difficult.

Make sure you’re not assuming every IVF story is going to have a happy endingCredit: Getty

As heartbreaking as it is, not everyone gets their longed-for baby.

People may be advised to stop, run out of money, or feel like they can’t cope with further treatments.

I got through the uncertainty by trying to focus on what needed doing that day and trying not to look further ahead.

“It can feel insensitive when well-meaning friends and family are falsely positive, and the person going through IVF may feel pressured, when in fact there is always an element that is beyond our control,” says Rhian Kivits, a therapist and sex and relationship expert.

“Instead of saying: ‘Of course it will work,’ try: ‘I’m rooting for you and here for you.’”


Everyone is different, so the type of support people need is going to be different, too. Let your loved one guide you.

Some days that might mean they are desperate to talk about IVF, on others they might want to be left alone. 

They meant well, but I found it unhelpful when people messaged me specifically asking how IVF was going, rather than how I was doing.

This would have allowed me to talk about IVF if I wanted to – or not.

I was often tired and emotional after the drugs and wanted to switch off from it in the evenings, but constant messages about IVF pulled me back into it.

“It’s important to listen to what your friend is telling you,” says Kate. “If they keep changing the subject, they obviously don’t want to talk about it at that moment.” 


Consider other ways you could help. “Suggest practical support like helping with housework or doing the shopping.

“This means a lot when energy levels are low and emotions are high,” says Rhian.

You could offer some practical help like going out for a nice meal togetherCredit: Getty

I had friends who offered to put me in touch with people they knew who had gone through IVF, and it was helpful to know I could speak to them if I wanted to.

It was also a reminder there are lots of people experiencing the same ups and downs.

Checking in with me in subtle ways was helpful, too.

A friend and I were both watching the same reality TV show and would message back and forth most days about that.

It was particularly nice when I was isolating in the lead-up to procedures, as it made me feel connected.

I also created a little ritual around injections – following them with a non-alcoholic G&T and some fancy chocolate.

This could be a nice thing to organise for a friend going through the process.


The urge to offer advice when you want to help someone is natural, but with something as complicated as IVF, you’re best off staying out of it.

“Everyone knows someone who’s done something different, or has read about some new treatment, but your friend is under the care of a doctor who will be giving them the best possible treatment,” says Kate.

“The same goes for old wives’ tales.

“Things like: ‘If you stress less, you’ll fall pregnant’, can be incredibly unhelpful, especially as going through treatment is itself inherently stressful.” 


There may be knock-backs for your friend, including failed procedures or the devastation of a miscarriage.

“Sometimes people are worried about saying the wrong thing, so they don’t say anything at all – especially around miscarriage,” says Kate. 

“But letting them know you are there if and when they need you is really important.” 

Allowing them time and space to feel their feelings is crucial.

“Don’t try to console them by focusing on next steps or potential future successes, and don’t minimise their sadness,” says Rhian.

“Ask them how you can best be there for them. Honour their requests and follow through with whatever you’ve agreed to do. 

It can be very hurtful to someone facing IVF failure when their friends and family let them down.”


If you fall pregnant during a friend’s IVF journey, a little sensitivity goes a long way.

It’s not that they won’t be happy for you, they just might need more space.

Remember to be sensitive if you have your own announcements to breakCredit: Getty

“Most people would rather you text or email than tell them face to face, because in that moment it can be hard to put on a smile when you’re trying not to burst into tears,” says Kate. 

I really appreciated when a friend acknowledged that her news might be difficult for me, and that there was no pressure to respond until I felt ready – that made it a lot easier for me to deal with my jealousy and feel happy for her faster.

Once your baby arrives, try to keep your friend included in conversations.

“If your friend is struggling, it’s nice if the conversation isn’t dominated by babies, as that can feel incredibly isolating,” says Kate. 

Source link

Related Articles

Back to top button