5 Tips for Talking to Your Friends About Fertility
Last year, I decided to start learning more about fertility and fertility treatment, particularly egg freezing. I’m 29 years old, want kids, and don’t have any serious prospects for a partner, so it seemed natural to start thinking about it.
My research eventually culminated in my first visit to a reproductive endocrinologist (RE), which is the formal name for doctors who specialize in fertility. The RE ran some tests to get a sense of my baseline fertility. After my results came back with no immediate red flags, I decided not to freeze my eggs now, but I plan to revisit that decision in a few years.
When I started telling my female friends about with my experience, I was surprised to find that none of them have taken similar steps to learn about their fertility.
My friends’ attitudes generally fall into one of two categories when they think about having a family one day: they either think “it’ll happen when it happens,” or “I’m not sure if I want kids so I don’t need to think about it yet.”
I also realized my friends and I don’t talk to each other about fertility.
Even though we freely discuss topics like pregnancy prevention or periods, most women my age don’t bring the same outspoken attitude to fertility.
I know what type of birth control each of my friends uses, but I don’t know their plans for having families.
I realized it’s important for me to talk to my friends about fertility for three reasons:
First, learning about your fertility can be stressful, and I want to confide in my friends about my journey; I can’t do that if my friends don’t know much about it or think the topic is taboo.
Second, these conversations can inspire my female friends to start thinking about an important health topic they may have otherwise avoided.
Lastly, friends are often a powerful source of information for women to learn about their health — in a survey of women who froze their eggs between 2011 and 2015, more than half learned about the procedure from a friend.
For those reasons, I pledged to talk more freely to my friends about fertility as part of the #SaytheFword campaign launched by Celmatix, and I encourage other women to do the same.
However, these conversations may feel intimidating, so I’ve provided some tips to make it a little less scary. Also, while I think talking to men about fertility is important, these tips focus on female friends because I prioritize having these conversations with other women first.
1. Lead by example.
Start by talking to your friends about your own fertility journey or research, without explicitly suggesting they begin their own. Your friends will likely be more receptive to the topic because you’ll be speaking to your own experiences, not theirs. Also, the fact that you’ve taken certain steps will demonstrate that the experience may not be as scary as they think.
2. Start small.
“Starting your journey” sounds like a bigger deal than it is. To diffuse this heaviness, start by recommending small steps that can benefit almost anyone: suggest that your friends ask their mom about her experience conceiving, or tell them about the tests an RE can run to give them an idea of their baseline fertility.
3. Always come from a place of support.
Whenever you encourage a friend to take action for her health, she may interpret it as judgmental or pushy. To avoid this, take care to clarify that you aren’t judging her choices or her lifestyle, but simply want to share your experiences and how she might benefit from similar actions.
4. Emphasize that fertility is often less scary than we think.
Many women have anxiety about fertility and particularly worry about “bad news” they might receive from an RE. Remind your friend that information helps us make the best decisions for ourselves, regardless of the outcome. You can also point out examples of celebrities or other public figures talking openly about their struggles with fertility (Chrissy Teigen is a great example) to remind them how relevant and important this topic is.
5. Be sensitive and mindful of your audience.
A woman’s interest in her fertility is influenced by many things, including her finances, health, and relationships. Be mindful of those factors for your friend, particularly if you suggest specific actions. For example, if your friend doesn’t talk to her mother, she likely won’t think “ask your mom about her experience getting pregnant” is an easy first step. Similarly, your friend who just lost her job might feel stressed if you talk to her about how to pay for egg freezing before she’s landed her next gig.
While starting these conversations might seem scary, ultimately erasing the stigma around fertility health, especially among younger women, will benefit us all in the long run.
If these conversations become routine, it will help us get better support from the women in our lives and ensure our loved ones don’t ignore an important area of their health.
This post was written in support of Celmatix’s #SaytheFword initiative, which encourages women to shatter stigmas by having open conversations about fertility and reproductive health. Join the movement by sharing your fertility story with #SaytheFword.