By Kate Brian, journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility
Deciding whether or not to tell your family, friends and colleagues that you are having difficulty getting pregnant and are going through treatment can be tricky. Some people have strong views on this; you may feel that your fertility is a deeply personal matter and that you don’t want anyone to know you are having treatment, or you may think that it is best to have things out in the open and opt tell everyone what is going on. If, like many people, you are somewhere between these two points, then making a decision about who to tell and when is not always easy.
Choosing to tell
Telling friends and family can make life easier, as you won’t get endless questions about when you are going to have children and warnings about not leaving it too late. You will have someone to turn to if you feel upset or worried, and friends and family will usually do their best to be understanding. What you do have to accept though is that it is hard to appreciate what infertility and treatment are really like unless you have been there yourself, and family and friends may not always deal things in the way you’d wish.
It is also important to remember that what you tell other people now can’t be taken back, and this is particularly vital to bear in mind if you are using donor eggs or sperm as this may influence how and when you talk to your future children about this.
The other difficulty about telling people is that everyone seems to have an opinion when it comes to fertility, and they may want to tell you what they think you ought to be doing! What’s more, if you have told people when you are starting your treatment, they may want constant updates on how you are doing – and if things don’t work out as planned, you can find yourself having to share your disappointment over and over again, or having to tell others that you are expecting a baby far earlier than you would have chosen.
Dealing with work colleagues
Choosing whether or not to tell work colleagues is another matter again. You may need to tell your boss if you are going to take time off work, but opting to tell all your colleagues is something that needs more careful consideration. Fielding questions about your fertility and treatment at work can bring up all kinds of emotions which may be difficult to handle. Who you tell at work and what exactly you tell them depends on your relationships with your colleagues, but you should not feel any obligation to be open about this at work.
Opting not to tell
It is true that keeping everything to yourself and your partner can be tough too. Other people often feel they have the right to ask quite intrusive questions about why you haven’t had children, and you may find yourself having to lie about why you are spending so much time disappearing off to the fertility clinic. You won’t be able to share your feelings with those close to you, and this can be isolating and lonely.
Your decisions about who to tell and when depend on how you feel about talking about what is going on and whether you are happy to share it with others. If you are uncomfortable about this, you may still choose to tell one or two close friends or family members so that you have someone to confide in. Perhaps what it is most important to understand is that there are no universally right or wrong answers here and what feels right for you is the right thing to do.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.