When couples face the challenges of IVF treatment, infertility diagnosis, or baby loss, it's crucial that there is unwavering support and understanding for both of them, not just the one who may seem to be “going through it” a little more than the other. It is important to recognise that these situations are equally distressing and upsetting for both parties, just often in very different ways. These experiences can be emotionally and physically draining, and having presence in both a supportive partner, but a much wider network can make a world of difference. I wanted to explore the practical ways to support couples through IVF, infertility, and baby loss, offering guidance on how to be their rock during these difficult times.
Active Listening and Empathy is key
It is vital to create a space for open communication. Encouragement for them to express their feelings, fears, and hopes without judgement or interruption is a great place to start. Being an active listener, providing undivided attention and offering empathy throughout the process is really powerful, and whilst at times it may not feel like you are doing anything or doing enough, it can be more helpful than you know.
Help to validate their emotions
Understanding that both of a couple may experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness, frustration, anger, or guilt is really important to recognise. Quite often we see and I really noticed this in particular when we were facing our journey through IVF that my husband basically got ignored, yet he was with me every step of the way. Whilst he may not have endured some of the physical implications of what we were going through, he certainly watched me and felt it emotionally, where it also impacted him also. So try to validate their feelings and let them know it's okay to express and process these emotions.
Educate Yourself, Learn about the journey
I would encourage anyone to take the initiative to educate yourself about IVF, infertility, or baby loss. Quite often it surprises many networks of friends, families and colleagues just how many people face this in their life and often in silence and alone.
Familiarise yourself with the terminology, procedures, and potential challenges involved. This knowledge will enable you to offer informed support and be a better advocate for your partner or couples you know who are facing it
Research coping strategies
Explore coping mechanisms and self-care practices that may benefit as part of this process. This could include mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques, or engaging in activities that bring them joy and provide a sense of normalcy. Try to take them away from the reality of what is going on at times as it will be a much welcomed break and I can say from experience it is nice to do and feel “normal” at times during this whole new world that you have to navigate.
Be Their Advocate
If you can attend medical appointments with them where they might need or welcome that support, for couples I would always encourage you to go to appointments together. It is really important to “show up” for one another at sometimes difficult and anxious times. So definitely try to ensure you accompany your partner to medical appointments, treatments, and procedures. It will show your commitment and solidarity, while also allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of the process. I have seen many couples go through this process and it is 10 times harder as they aren't on the same page and one doesn't show up for the other at times when it matters most.
Help navigate paperwork and logistics
If you feel you can then offer assistance with the administrative side of things, such as specific paperwork, scheduling appointments, or organising medication. This can alleviate some of the burdens and reduce their stress.
Share the household responsibilities, take on additional household chores and responsibilities to alleviate the physical and mental load on your partner. This gesture allows them to focus on self-care and their fertility journey.
Not everyone can do this but offering assistance with injections or medication is really committal and a lovely gesture as this can be a really scary and anxious time of the process.
Be Patient and Understanding
Acknowledge their grief and loss, if your partner has experienced baby loss, understand that the grieving process can be lengthy and unpredictable. It is important to recognise you are both going through it and both grieving. Be patient, supportive, and non-judgmental as they navigate their emotions and heal.
For family and friends it is really hard to know what to say to someone who has experienced losing their baby as part of this process, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to say the right thing, often you need say nothing at all but to just be there and that is more important than anything. Shying away from it won’t help either, put aside your own feelings and how uncomfortable you may feel, being there for them even if it is just to sit in silence and hold there hand can go a really long way in helping someone deal with this grieving process.
Give them space when needed
Recognise when they may occasionally need space to process their emotions or simply have some time alone. Respect their boundaries and allow them the time and space they require. Always ask them if they want any help and support, don't just try and show up and give it.
For couples I would encourage seeking support together. Attending support groups or therapy sessions together is a great place to start.This can provide a safe space to share experiences, gain insights, and strengthen your bond through the whole journey.
Supporting your partner, family member, friend or colleague through IVF treatment, infertility, or baby loss requires compassion, patience, and a willingness to be their rock during challenging times. By actively listening, educating yourself, being their advocate, providing practical support, and showing patience and understanding, you can help create a nurturing and loving environment. Remember that this journey can be emotionally and physically exhausting, so it's crucial to care for yourself as well.