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How to Best Support Our Friends Through IVF


Photo Credit: Carla Pérez Vas

No matter what the journey looks like exactly, fertility struggles can be ripe with big emotions. It has become status quo for all of us to keep conception aspirations, struggles, and even the first trimester of pregnancy to ourselves. This social expectation leads us to feel isolated in a most vulnerable phase of life where extra support and kindness would be like a warm blanket across slumped shoulders. 

What if it doesn’t have to be this way? Can we open the windows, let the light in, and acknowledge what is? There are millions of women and hopeful parents-to-be dealing with PCOS, endometriosis, miscarriage, IUI, IVF, and more on their path to parenthood. We think it’s time to see each other through the process.

To start, we’re talking IVF. We checked in with our networks of inspiring women who have gone through IVF to ask them what gestures mattered, what words stung, and what advice they’d give to those beginning the process. 

What gestures from friends and family meant the most to you during the IVF process? 

“Just being there! If your friend or relative is confiding in you that they are going through IVF, they highly trust you so just be sure to check in on them, even if you don't know the ‘right’ thing to say. Just simply ask how they are doing. Then on the hard days (like follicle retrieval, implantation, etc.) a simple check in—text, coffee, Uber Eats gift card—little gestures go a long way during the process.” - Jenny 

“The most helpful thing people did for us during the IVF process was sending us meals. There were times when I didn't have the capacity to think about what we were going to eat so it took the weight off having to think about that. It was a very tangible way for them to show they cared. Also, two of my best friends sent flowers the day of our first transfer. I was such an unexpected surprise and not only let me know they were thinking about us but also added a little beauty to a stressful and uncertain day.” - Christa

“My friends wouldn't ask me specific questions regarding where I was at in the process. Rather they would send me kind texts and phone call check-ins just to say they are thinking about me. IVF is such a long and arduous process so it can be difficult to discuss the specifics of where I was during the process so just knowing they were thinking about me, wherever I was during the journey meant a lot.” - Melissa J.

What should people avoid saying to someone going through IVF?

“Oh the list could go on! ‘It will happen when you stop thinking about it; just go on vacation; have you thought about a surrogate? adoption? enjoy your marriage and just wait to have kids!’” - Breanna

“Please don’t tell someone they need to ‘relax’ and it will just happen like someone else you know. People don’t know your personal situation or diagnosis and that makes you feel like it is your fault and in your control. Avoid asking them too much about the process but be open to listen if they want to share. There is so much uncertainty, hope and disappointment in an IVF cycle it can be hard to rehash the details with everyone. Sometimes I wanted to vent but most of the time it was just too much.” - Nicki

“The most frustrating thing people said was various iterations of "you just have to not worry about it and it will happen.” I even had a family friend tell us to get drunk in a hot tub and that would get me pregnant. Those types of comments completely diminished the pain and uncertainty we were experiencing. I couldn't just turn it off and ‘not worry about it.’ Getting pregnant and becoming a mother was something that was constantly on my mind and consumed every thought and action. I also was frustrated by those comments because people who said things like that didn't know anything about our process. They didn't know our diagnosis, they didn't know what things we had tried and were trying, they didn't know the emotional toll of not getting pregnant month after month.” - Christa 

What are the best things to say to someone going through IVF? What did you find most comforting and encouraging to hear?

“I was lucky enough that one of my best friends at work spotted me taking an estrogen pill and said quietly ‘hey, I know what those are and just finished going through it too. If you need to chat to anyone about it I am here’ and that began our relationship of having someone to ask advice for every step of the way. I do think it is important to have at least one or a few people or relatives that have gone through the process to talk to because it is a hard, unknown process for a lot of us. If you don't have anyone you know that has been through it, finding support groups or resources online can help just the same. Anything to make you feel like you're not alone. I found success stories encouraging and a way to stay hopeful and optimistic. I try to pay it forward so I am open about going through IVF and tell any of my friends if they know someone going through it to reach out and you would be surprised how many people—friends of friends or relatives—have reached out for someone to talk to, which means the world to me. So don't be afraid to reach out to someone who has been through it, they will most likely want to help and talk about their path.” - Jenny 

“Just be there for your friend. Take their lead on what they need. Don’t try to rationalize it, don’t tell them their odds, don’t tell them the story about your neighbor’s friend’s sister who did five rounds of IVF then got pregnant naturally.”  - Nicki 

“Just general check-ins like: I am thinking about you. A lot of my friends also offered to walk with me and just getting out for a nice walk felt so good during that time. I also had friends that said ‘I want you to know I am thinking about you but don't want to ask you questions every time I see you so whenever you want to share something or talk about the journey just know I am always here.’” - Melissa 

During the process, did you read any great books or have any other resources that helped you?

“Yes! The book Signs, by Laura Jackson, was amazing because I was always looking for signs during my journey. I also did Gabby Bernstein's manifestation challenge in January and that helped me so much.” - Melissa J

“Honestly, I found that my doctor and nurses were beyond helpful. I encourage anyone going through IVF to interview multiple doctors and find one that makes you feel extremely comfortable. I have to call out my amazing doctor, Dr. Brower, who is currently at Kindbody in Los Angeles. I had met with multiple doctors and didn't want to just be another stat in their ‘success metrics’ but when I met Dr. Brower I felt like I could call her or email her with any questions and she would give me a truthful response rather than a response I wanted to hear.” - Jenny 

“I sought out professional help when I was going through IVF and it helped immensely. Despite having an unbelievably supportive partner and family to lean on it was helpful to set aside 50 minutes each week to talk to someone removed to just vent. It can be an all consuming process and a lot on a relationship.” - Nicki 

How did you keep your mental health sane and avoid the comparison spiral of "everyone's getting pregnant but me?”

“This was really hard for me. During the most intense parts of our fertility treatments, my three best friends and sister-in-law all got pregnant and had babies. I hosted four baby showers and remember crying before each one wondering if it would ever be me that got to be celebrated in that way. I had three mantras that I would tell myself over and over again: 'You are doing everything you can. This is going to work. You are going to be a mother.' Those sayings were a track that was played on repeat in my head. It helped remind me that I really was doing everything I could possibly do. I never wanted to look back on the process if it didn't work and wonder what if I had done something different, would it have made a difference. I also did acupuncture with someone who specializes in infertility. She would listen to what was going on not only in my body but in my mind and focus my treatments accordingly. During my treatments, I was able to relax, repeat my mantras, and know that it was one more thing I was doing to move towards our goal of becoming parents.” - Christa

 

"I had three mantras that I would tell myself over and over again: 'You are doing everything you can. This is going to work. You are going to be a mother.'"

 

“Lots of wine. We kept busy on the weekends with friends that didn’t have children yet either and a lot of planned, fun date nights just us two.” - Breanna

“This might be a bit controversial but I would also say… it’s okay to not always feel 100 percent happy for someone else when they get pregnant. It’s normal and it doesn’t make you a bad person. It can hurt, even if irrational. Be honest with your friends. I found it very hard to be around my pregnant friends when I was going through IVF and I just was upfront about it. I ended up telling some of them that while I was very happy for them I needed some space.” - Nicki

What's your best advice for someone about to begin IVF?

“If you are going through the process with a partner lean on your loved one! Between all the shots, appointments, waiting together, it will definitely bring you closer if you let it since no one else understands what you are going through. For IVF specifically:

  • Ice before shots. It takes away the pain
  • For egg retrieval try to get the earliest time possible. There are a lot of emotions that day so the earlier the better plus you have to fast so it's always easier to do it in the morning. Wear super comfy clothes and bring a Gatorade or something with electrolytes for afterwards since you might be light headed when you wake up from anesthesia. Then plan to spend the next 24 hours in bed watching Netflix with someone around to take care of you. It will take anywhere from four hours to a week to recover. It took me five days (bloated and painful days) to recover so don't anticipate you will just bounce back. 
  • For transfer day, bring all the positive energy you can and whatever you need to feel comfortable! Pamper yourself for the next nine days until you find out if it works. A little wives tale that I heard but also did in both of my transfers is to keep your feet warm and eat warm foods. Might just have been an excuse to stay in warm, comfy socks and sit on the couch with soup."

    - Jenny 

“There is so much waiting involved...waiting at appointments, waiting for results, waiting to see if ‘it sticks.’ Find a good book, a TV series, a new hobby…try to keep yourself busy and distracted as much as possible.” - Nicki 

“Be an advocate for yourself and family. Ask a ton of questions and don’t be scared to switch doctors if it doesn’t feel like a good fit. Research coupons and programs for financial help. Take it one day at a time and do lots of self-care.” - Breanna

“My biggest piece of advice is to know IVF truly is a journey. I went into the process just wanting to get pregnant ASAP and figured I would because I went to a top doctor and science should work. Well, that was not the case. I experienced many hurdles and surprises during the IVF process, so you just need to be open to the journey and know a first retrieval or first transfer might not work.” - Melissa 

Looking for support as you navigate the fertility journey? Join our community Village by Perelel to connect and find support from others. Plus, shop our Conception Support Pack, created specifically to help your body prepare for pregnancy. 

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.

Written by Jessica Lopez. Jessica Lopez is a freelance writer, digital content creator, and new mother. She has covered all lifestyle topics ranging from bridal to beauty for publications including Brides Magazine, Byrdie, THE/THIRTY, and more. Walking wide-eyed into motherhood has inspired her to connect with other parents through her writing and shared experience. You can follow more of her journey @Jessica.H.Lopez.