These easy-to-follow strategies can help couples, hosts, friends and family avoid hurt feelings and holiday heartache

The holidays are a wonderful time to spend with family and friends, but for those coping with infertility, the pain of celebrating a child-centric holiday can be difficult. Holiday joy can be quickly squashed with a careless comment such as “Why haven’t you had kids yet?” Even seeing other couples celebrate their first holiday together as a family can be painful.

With one in six couples of child-bearing age experiencing infertility, that adds up to a lot of silent sufferers this holiday season. For such intended parents, experts at Reproductive Science Center have compiled tips to help make the holiday season a time of joy, not despair.

“Just as you put time into planning into your holiday schedule, it is important to put time into planning how you will navigate the holidays emotionally,” explains reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Mary Hinckley with Reproductive Science Center in the East Bay. “It’s good to take the time to think about which situations are most challenging and which provide you with hope and encouragement. Couples need to identify those events that might be too overwhelming and navigate around them, so they can focus on a meaningful, joyous holiday season.”

6 Tips for Couples Coping with Infertility During the Holidays:

1. Plan ahead. Have an answer prepared should someone inquire about your intentions to have children. Although many close friends and relatives will understand, couples shouldn’t feel obligated to disclose personal details about their infertility experiences.

2. Be selective with your invitations to holiday celebrations, particularly where you expect to find children or pregnant women. If it will be too difficult to attend, you don’t need to go.

3. Anticipate when you might see children at family events. If it’s too painful to be around young nieces, nephews and cousins, consider arriving just in time for a holiday dinner and not the night before.

4. Bond with other couples who don’t have children. Plan to spend time with couples or friends who don’t have children if family festivities are too much to bear.

5. Decide whether or not to hold any babies before you arrive. For some, holding a baby can bring hope while for others it can be incredibly painful. Well-meaning relatives may want to share in the joy of a new family member as do you, but it is important to listen to your needs first.

6. Start new family traditions with your partner, or get out of town. It could be a ski trip or a romantic getaway. Approaching the holiday in a new way may be the best way to enjoy the holiday season.

6 “Infertility Etiquette” Tips for Friends & Family:

1. Don’t minimize the problem by mentioning the hassles of parenting or say there are worse things that could happen. Coping with infertility is painful and only those experiencing it understand how difficult it can be.

2. Don’t offer advice or tips on how the couple can fix the situation, whether it’s exercise, food or lifestyle. Rest assured that if the couple has seen a fertility specialist, the physician has already covered these issues. Couples coping with infertility often blame themselves and struggle with this issue.

3. Don’t tell the couple to relax and if it is meant to be, it will happen. Doctors consider couples infertile if they have tried unsuccessfully for more than a year to conceive. While stress often appears to be a contributor to infertility, the human reproductive system is complex and affected by a number of biological and physical factors.

4. Don’t complain about your own past or present pregnancy. Couples dealing with infertility hope for the day they can worry about pregnancy.

5. Do be supportive. Hugs and encouragement go a long way. Spend time together or plan activities that don’t focus on children. Show your love and care.

6. Don’t push adoption. Each couple has their own approach to family building, and are well aware of their options. This is a personal topic that they may have considered or struggled with, and it is not appropriate to discuss at a holiday event.

About Reproductive Science Center: Established in 1983, just two years after the first successful birth through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in the United States, the Reproductive Science Center of the San Francisco Bay Area has been a pioneering fertility medical practice for more than a quarter-century. RSC was also responsible for the nation’s second successful birth of a baby from a frozen embryo and is recognized today for its pregnancy rates and work with egg donors and egg donation for patients from northern California, the Western United States, Asia, India and around the world for patients pursuing medical tourism. Our fertility clinics in San Ramon, Orinda, San Jose and Modesto are easily accessible to fertility patients from the Bay area.