Between 70%-80% of people with PCOS experience infertility. Yes, you read that right.
PCOS presents a number of incredibly distressing symptoms and, for those looking to conceive, infertility can often be the most heartbreaking.
This week is National Fertility Awareness Week, which helps to raise awareness of fertility issues, raise funds, and provide support to the 3.5 million people in the UK currently experiencing fertility issues.
You can take part by donating, hosting a fundraiser, or speaking up about the fertility issues faced by many. Or, keep reading to learn how to support someone experiencing fertility difficulties.
4 Ways to Support Someone With PCOS Who is Experiencing Fertility Difficulties
1. Let them know you’re there for them
Experiencing fertility difficulties can feel indescribably isolating.
Let your loved one know that they have your love and support, and that you’d like to help in any way that you – realistically – can.
Try not to assume that you know what they need from you – you don’t. Whilst some might feel comforted by regular check-ins and kind words, others might be grateful if you can lighten their load and relieve stress by helping them run errands. After all, we all work through difficulties in different ways.
So, ask how you can best provide support, and trust that they will tell you what they need from you and when.
2. Keep your opinions to yourself
Whilst likely well-meaning, offering up your opinions or giving unsolicited advice is, more often than not, not at all helpful. In fact, it can be incredibly hurtful to the person experiencing fertility issues.
Commit to approaching every interaction with complete compassion – no judgement – and keeping your opinions to yourself (unless, of course, your loved one asks).
If you’re keen to share a piece of advice you think might genuinely be of benefit to the person experiencing fertility issues, ask if they would like to hear it before blurting it out. You could say something along the lines of: “I read something interesting about treating infertility in people with PCOS in [reference credible source here] the other day. Would you like me to share it with you?”
3. Educate yourself
If you aren’t sure what PCOS is, what the common symptoms are, or how it can affect fertility, do a little research so you can at least gain an insight into what the person or couple is experiencing.
Verity is the UK PCOS charity, and is a great source for getting a look at how PCOS can affect people in real life. You can find symptom-specific info on PCOS on the NHS website, and advice for symptom management on the MyOva blog.
Fertility Network UK is your go-to to learn about infertility difficulties, causes, and treatments.
4. Limit trigger topics in conversations
Be mindful that some subjects – such as pregnancy, miscarriage, and childbirth, for example – might be extremely triggering for your loved one experiencing fertility difficulties.
Ask them if they’re comfortable discussing certain topics before sharing a story they might find hurtful (try saying something like: “There’s something I’d like to share with you but I’m conscious that it involves [insert trigger topic here]. Are you comfortable hearing about that right now? It’s OK if not), and respect their response.
Remember that just because they’re happy to engage in an uncomfortable conversation once, that doesn’t mean they always will be – so make a habit of double-checking every time.
It also helps to make it super easy for the person experiencing fertility issues to remove themselves from in-person situations that feel triggering to them. For instance, ask if they want to pop to the loo or step outside for some fresh air if friends at dinner are discussing pregnancy. And be forthcoming that it’s OK if they don’t feel comfortable attending your baby shower at present – you can celebrate together at a later date.
These small acts of compassion take little to no effort at all, but can really help the person experiencing fertility difficulties to maintain their boundaries and protect their mental wellbeing.