This Mother’s Day, remember many women struggle with infertility
Sunday celebrates all things motherhood, but for women trying to conceive, it can be a day of hell, sadness and jealousy. Here’s how to help.
If you’re looking for a story on the best last-minute gifts to buy mom for Mother’s Day on Sunday, this isn’t it. Instead, this story is going to cover something that isn’t usually talked about ahead of the holiday: How hard Mother’s Day can be on women who struggle with infertility.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eight women struggle with infertility, and despite the fact that 7.4 million women have received infertility services in their lifetime, the topic is still quite taboo in society — and that’s “what can make Mother’s Day so difficult,” said Dr. Maria F. Costantini-Ferrando of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.
“I think everybody knows to be sensitive to Mother’s Day toward any woman who’s lost their mother or a child, but they don’t quite get how to be sensitive to women who are trying to become a mother,” she added. “They’ve got that same sense of loss, but what’s added to that is the fact that they have this really daunting fear that they may never get to experience motherhood.”
So what can you do to help make sure Mother’s Day isn’t too difficult for the women in your life trying to conceive — or too hard on yourself if you’re one of them? Read on for tips from Dr. Costantini-Ferrando.
Constantini-Ferrando suggests letting her know you know how hard Mother's Day might be for her.
“Ask her what you can do, how she wants to spend the day or if she wants to be alone, but just reach out to let her know you get it,” she said. “It’ll give her a sense of connectedness and understanding without imposing a sense of judgment about what she should do or not do.”
Women trying to conceive should not be afraid to say what she needs, Constantini-Ferrando said. “I think it’s important to be selfish and put yourself first.”
And it’s OK to want to feel sorry for yourself. “You’re entitled, and it’s important to feel compassion for yourself and self-love because these women can feel like such failures, which they are not,” she added.
Many “perfect” Mother’s Day photos are sure to be shared on social media Sunday, which may cause many women to feel jealous as they scroll through the flood — and that’s OK, too, Constantini-Ferrando said.
“It’s normal. Brush it off,” she urged. “Stay positive, and know this is you now — it doesn’t have to be you forever. See yourself maybe a year or two from now, when you may post a picture of yourself pregnant.”
She does suggest staying off social media altogether if you can and “go back to the old days and connect to friends or other women who are going through this, too.”
The CDC defines infertility as the inability to conceive after one year or more of unprotected sex. As fertility declines with age, some providers treat women ages 35 and older after six months of unprotected sex.
As much as one-third of women over 35 struggle with fertility issues and can be prone to miscarriages. Other factors include smoking, excessive alcohol use, extreme weight gain or loss or extreme physical or emotional stress that results in fewer periods.
These factors can also decrease a man’s fertility, as can exposure to environmental toxins, certain medications, high temperatures or radiation, the CDC said.
• 1 in 8 women struggle with infertility (CDC)
• 7.4 million women have received infertility services in their lifetime (CDC)
• 1/3 of infertility is attributed to women, while 1/3 is attributed to men and 1/3 is a combo of both or unexplained (ASRM.org)
• 1/3 of women over 35 have fertility issues (CDC)