21st Mar, 2016
Mary McAuliffe, fertility nurse specialist and head of clinical services at Waterstone Clinic shares her tips on how to really help someone through this difficult time.
“We often find that women and couples don’t even want to tell their family and friends about their treatment, so it can be a very difficult and isolating time for them. If they have chosen to confide in you, they haven’t taken that decision lightly so it’s really important to make sure you are communicating with them in the right way. Men and women’s emotional response to fertility struggles are very different, and you might find they prefer to confide in a family member or a close friend than burdening their partner with their hopes and fears. The ways in which they need support might not necessarily be the way you think is right. You might want to discuss it all; they might want to escape it all and see a funny movie. Get in tune with the signs they are giving you and respond in the right way with the right type of support.”
My top tips:
1. Don’t tell them to “relax about it” – people who have chosen to go down the route of IVF have done so because they are facing significant challenges on the way to realising their dream of having a baby. Telling them to relax could be taken to belittle the issues they are trying to overcome.
2. Don’t ignore the Elephant In The Room or try to minimise the problem – much like not telling them to relax, completely ignoring the issue or dismissing it if it is raised is also not supportive. If they bring it up, listen and give encouragement. Unless they have expressly said they do not want to talk about it, ask a general question about how things are going so that they know you are interested and feel comfortable chatting about it.
3. Don’t ask every day if there any updates or news. And never ask, “are you pregnant?”
4. Never say ‘There are worse things that could happen” – to the person going through it, it’s the biggest challenge they have had to face.
5. Ask how you can help and support them on their journey – ask if there’s anything you can do that might help. Maybe they need a lift to an appointment, or maybe you could offer to make them dinner following an appointment. Offer your help and let them know you are genuine about it.
6. Be a cause for distraction – they will very likely need time out and something fun to look forward to so they can take their mind off it all for a few hours. Be their companion for a gig, or a spa visit or even just treat them to popcorn and the cinema.
7. Be aware of other people’s behaviour in their presence and be ready to protect them from preying or awkward questions.
8. Support their decision to stop treatments – making the decision to stop is an extremely difficult one, let them know you support them all the way and you know they did the right thing for them.
9. On testing day – don’t contact them looking for an update, whether it is good or bad news, they will need time to digest the information. Do, however, let them know in advance that you are at the end of the phone and there for them.
10. Encourage them to have a date-night with their partner; they may need to switch off for a few hours and have fun together as a couple.
11. Don’t limit communication to just texting or calling, visit them and arrange to go for a walk, or a coffee – sometimes just having company can make a difference. Physical support such as a hug or an arm around their shoulder can also provide comfort.
12. Be realistic with them and don’t be overly positive about their treatment if they have told you their chance of success is less than 20 per cent.