Telling people what not to say can be a little bit problematic. I know this because I run a campaign called ‘Think! What Not to Say,’ and while the fertility community tends to love it, the wider world can feel differently. I understand why. Being told the way you’re behaving is ‘wrong’ isn’t anyone’s favorite conversation starter.

So the first thing I want to say is that we actually do need greater empathy for people who haven’t been through fertility issues and inadvertently put their foot in it. We can also take a little bit of responsibility ourselves, by taking ownership of what’s happening and empowering ourselves with mindset work and surrounding ourselves with support from people who understand.

However, people outside of the fertility community who are hoping to support someone do need to take a few minutes to educate themselves. It doesn’t take much and it really must be done, because so much damage - real, lasting, deep damage - is being done, all over the world, to people who feel trivialized and misunderstood while going through infertility.

They start to feel even more isolated, because often if they do choose to be open and share what’s happening, they are met with unsolicited advice, well-meaning but heart-breaking ‘positivity,’ and a lack of understanding that they’ve been experiencing grief and loss every time they have gotten a negative pregnancy test.

This can lead to a really sad breakdown of relationships with family and friends, which is totally avoidable.

It is perfectly true that someone going through infertility may be quite sensitive, but who wouldn’t be?! Try to be kind. Their sensitivity is for very good reason and probably a result of going through something incredibly stressful for a sustained period of time without anyone around them really understanding or being able to offer the kind of support they need.

To put it another way, it’s a bit like being smacked over the head/heart with a baseball bat for months or years repeatedly while pretending to the world that it isn’t happening, only to eventually realize that you need to open up about it because you’re at your breaking point, only to have everyone around you stare at you blankly and tell you to ‘relax.’

So with respect and empathy for all parties (and a bit of humor!), here are a few tips for what not to say to someone going through fertility issues:

What you say:

“We were starting to get worried, but then we went on vacation, relaxed, and boom! We got pregnant! Don’t worry, you’ll be fine.”

What they hear:

“You’re worrying over nothing! It’s all going to work out just fine because it was fine for us; therefore, of course, you’ll be fine, too. Fine, fine fine. You’re probably just stressed.”

What you say:

“I heard avocado mixed with chia seeds every day and sticking your legs in the air after sex, are both supposed to be really helpful. Are you doing that? I think you should start doing that.”

What they hear:

“I am a fertility expert because I googled ‘Top Tips to Get Pregnant’. You clearly haven’t done your research. Do a bit of googling. That’ll fix it.”

What you say:

“How long have you been trying? Oh, that’s not too bad then. Some people go through it for, like, 10 years or something, don’t they?”

What they hear:

“What are you moaning about, you big drama queen?! It hasn’t even been that long. Get over it!”

What you say:

“I know someone who went through 18 rounds of IVF and it finally happened. You can do it!”

What they hear:

“You’re being a bit whiney, to be honest. You haven’t been through as much as my friend. Also: you must NEVER get off this emotional treadmill because if you do, you might regret it forever and the only way out is if it finally works and you have a child. Good luck with that!”

What you say:

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“You’re still young, you’ve got plenty of time!”

What they hear:

“The emotional trauma and distress you’re currently experiencing aren’t valid at all; just get over it and be patient. You’re overreacting and should just chill out! What do you want kids for now, anyway?”

So, you see, although you might be doing your very best to help and advise, people going through infertility aren’t really looking for that.

Trust me, they have already googled night and day, reading every scrap of information and joining online communities. They have probably already tried anything and everything they can think of, be it vision boards and affirmations or complex combinations of herbs and special conception ‘cups.’

What they need from their friends isn’t unsolicited advice: it is simply a friend. Or if you’re a parent or sibling, just do what family does and love them, however irrational they might behave.

Be kind, and be there. Acknowledge their pain. Offer your solidarity. Send them something nice. It will mean so much to them and make them feel safe in your presence. They’ll finally feel understood and so much more relaxed than being told to ‘relax.’ Simply put, just be there for them.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. It will mean a lot to whoever you’re supporting.

Alice Rose is an IVF mom and fierce advocate for those trying to become parents. She offers mindset courses and other resources on her website, She is also the Co-Founder of You can follow her on Instagram at @thisisalicerose.