This article was originally featured on What to Expect, a pregnancy and parenting brand helping every parent know what to expect, every step of the way.
Struggling to conceive is a truly challenging, at times completely heartbreaking experience shared by women all over the country. In fact, about 12 percent of women (6.1 million) in the U.S. ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And yet, the subject is one that comes with a heavy dose of social stigma. In short, we are not discussing it nearly enough, and in turn, many women who face infertility are left feeling alone.
Those are just several reasons it's all too important that this week has been declared National Infertility Awareness Week. In an effort to further the conversation, here, six women who've struggled with fertility share what they want others to know about it.
The quotes below have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
1. Don't be afraid to talk about it. "We as women need to be more supportive of each other. I was surprised to learn about friends and co-workers that also were going through the same issues. By talking about it, I found that it is more common than I realised. We supported one another, and had like 'is this normal' or 'did this happen to you?'-type conversations. It was helpful to have someone who has gone through it to tell you what the doctors don't tell [you] to expect.
Also, people sometimes don't know that you have to pay to store your embryos and that you might have a tough decision to make when you're done with IVF and have to figure out what to do with your remaining embryos." — Val S., South Carolina
2. It takes a toll on your relationship. "I struggled with infertility for five years! After three miscarriages [and losing] four babies, I finally conceived my daughter. She's 8 weeks today. Infertility definitely has an effect on your relationship with your spouse. It puts a major strain on one another. [My husband] tried to be the 'strong' one all the time. He tried to never let me see he was hurt. But it can also bring you closer to one another, because you rely on one another to be strong." — Michelle P., Georgia
3. Please don't tell me to "just relax." "I went through eight years of infertility treatments, then acupuncture and herbs, a fetal demise of twin boys at 16 weeks, and then on to adopt siblings. One of the things I hated was hearing, 'Oh, just relax, it will happen...I knew someone who knew someone who tried for years and the minute they gave up, they were pregnant!' or 'Have some wine to relax.'" — Deidre B., Texas
4. Words matter. "When my husband and I were trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant with our first child, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). After being placed on medication for my thyroid, Metformin, and two rounds of [fertility treatment] Fermara, we got pregnant with our son. This took almost an entire year. Even after knowing the 'cocktail' that worked for me it still took five months to get pregnant with our daughter. We now have two beautiful babies that we couldn't feel more blessed to have. While going through this process, words do matter. People have good intentions, but they don't realise how hurtful it is to say things like, 'You're not pregnant yet?' During this time, I just surrounded myself with close friends who were either just incredibly supportive or ones who knew what we were going through. My OB was also a huge strength of support for my husband and me. It is difficult, but SO worth it in the end." — Mandy F., South Carolina
5. It can be a lonely journey. "It's painful, exhausting and isolating. I wish more people talked about it. It needs more awareness brought to it. Often people mean well and have good intentions, but end up saying things that really hurt. The best things people said were: 'I am here for you,' 'I am thinking about you,' or 'I love you.'" — Kristyn S., Florida
6. Please don't ask if "I've thought about adoption." "I'll be married for 16 years this September. It took me seven years to have my son after a diagnosis of unknown infertility. It drove me crazy when people asked me, 'Have you thought of adoption?' To which I replied, 'Sure! Are you going to pay for it?' I knew I always wanted to be a mom. Yeah, adoption is a route that I want to explore, but it's super expensive. I wanted to know what carrying my child felt like. To feel the kicks, the hiccups, and watching my belly grow. I know most of the time people just don't know what to say, but just tell them you don't know what they are going through or acknowledge it may be difficult and offer a hug, a listening ear, or a shoulder to cry on." — Michelle Y., South Carolina
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