June 5, 2024

Trigger Warning: the following blog post discusses both infertility and miscarriage.

Wellness Wednesday - Infertility Awareness

Give yourself some grace.

In 2024 in the U.S. one in five couples experience infertility and 10% to 15% of pregnancies can end in miscarriage. In fact, most of us know a friend or family member who has experienced the struggles of infertility, whether we know it or not. So, what can each of us do to be more aware and supportive of those struggling with infertility?

Let’s Start with a Definition

What exactly is infertility? Well, according to the Cleveland Clinic “Infertility is a condition of your reproductive system that causes people to be unable to get pregnant (conceive). Infertility can affect anyone and has many causes.”

Infertility can present itself in different forms:

  • Primary infertility: being unable to get pregnant or cannot conceive after one year
  • Secondary infertility: being unable to get pregnant again after having at least one successful pregnancy
  • Unexpected infertility: fertility testing hasn’t found a reason that a person or a couple is unable to get pregnant
  • History of recurrent loss: experience two or more miscarriages

Infertility Is a Challenging Journey

Working through infertility presents individuals, and couples, with intense challenges — physically, mentally and financially. Because of the toll it can take, we want to provide tips for individuals navigating the journey, along with tips for loved ones to help along the way.

Everyone’s Experience Is Different

First, it is vital to understand that experiences starting or growing a family can be wildly different. People may make the choice to NOT have a family. And today, families come in many different forms.

It is important to understand that unless they have told you, there is no way to know where someone is at in their fertility journey. So, to put it bluntly, let’s stop asking women and couples if they are trying. “When will you have kids?” or “when are you going to give Johnny a little sibling?”

Although these questions can have good intentions, they can be triggering as this can be a sensitive topic for those who are trying to conceive.

Tips For Navigating the Journey

Do not be afraid to lean on your support system.

Whether your support comes from your spouse/partner, a friend, a counselor or finding a group of peers, don’t walk this path alone. Rely on your existing supports systems or build new ones.

Understand your benefits.

Does your employer or benefits offer coverage that may help pay for the process of infertility? Some benefits plans cover certain testing or procedures. If your employer offers an EAP, it may provide free counseling sessions and other support resources to help you along the way.

Set healthy boundaries.

Infertility can feel overwhelming, alienating, lonely and all-consuming — like everywhere you look you see pregnant couples and babies. You are allowed to be sad, jealous and angry. It does not mean you are a bad person or that you are incapable of being happy for others.

Healthy boundaries can provide relief from unwanted conversations and triggers. These boundaries could be a simple request to friends and family “please do not ask me/us about our journey right now.”  Personally, I set the boundary of getting off social media for a while. Set the boundaries that will best support your physical and mental health.

Seek help and give yourself grace.

Find the right provider that will fit your needs and listen to your questions and concerns. It is important to ask for help when you feel like personally or as a couple you may need more support and guidance in your journey. Understand that there is no wrong or right way to go through what you are going through. Give yourself grace in knowing that it is okay to be frustrated, sad, angry, and at the same time have hope for your family.

Tips for Supporting Loved Ones

Some of us will not experience the pain and challenges of infertility. But odds are, we know and love someone who will. Here are four foundational tips for being a part of their support system.

  • Respect the boundaries they put in place for themselves
  • I have had two close loved ones go through this journey and sometimes all we want to do is try to help find a solution. But sometimes, all the person may need is an ear to listen to and a shoulder to lean on.
  • Be there. Sometimes just showing up and being there for a person, like taking them to lunch, or a coffee. Sending a quick “how are you?” message just so that the person knows they have a support system when they are ready to talk or reach out for help.
  • Be understanding. Understand that each person’s journey is different, and some people may need to be alone to process. Others may need more frequent help and support.

Infertility is a tough topic to talk about. It is full of emotions and triggers. So, thank you for sticking this post out. I hope it gave you new ideas for navigating the journey or supporting someone who is. Looking for additional resources? There are many available, but always consult with your OBGYN, or primary care provider for any medical advice.

Catherine Kirkhoff

Authored By

Catherine Kirkhoff

Director of Kinetiq Health

Catherine works with our client services team and wellness vendors to empower clients to implement, manage and measure their health and wellness initiatives. She manages the day-to-day activities of the team of analysts and clinicians driving Kinetiq Health program strategy for Apex clients.

Before joining Apex, Catherine worked in public health for six years as a curriculum coordinator for the Marion County Public Health Department. During that time, she earned her CHES and CLS certifications and provided health education throughout the community and schools in Marion County.

Meet Catherine