An honest look at the ways women are聽taking care聽of their minds and bodies in 2018.

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Infertility, defined as the inability to establish a clinical pregnancy after a year of trying, affects one in eight couples, according to RESOLVE, the National Infertility Association. That鈥檚 7.4 million women who have received infertility services in their lifetime. And yet, despite its prevalence, the experience of infertility commonly leaves women feeling misunderstood, isolated, and exhausted.聽Barb Collura, president and CEO of RESOLVE, says that in addition to offering resources and advocacy for people as they navigate the ups and downs of infertility, the organization also aims to equip family and friends of those facing infertility with practical ways to support their loved ones, including how to talk about infertility 鈥 and how not to.

鈥淚nstead of making comments on where someone is in their infertility journey or what they鈥檝e decided to do, ask 鈥榟ow can I support you?鈥 she advises. Especially harmful, she adds, are well-meaning attempts to 鈥渟olve鈥 a person鈥檚 infertility by making unsolicited suggestions of how to handle it.

鈥淲hile other people鈥檚 success stories might sound great, they can actually be really hurtful. Infertility is so personal, and there are so many different variables.鈥

Medical experts cite a number of underlying causes for infertility, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary failure or other ovulatory disorders, or menstrual cycle defects. In 30 percent of cases, infertility is related to a male issue, but we聽tend to think of it as a women鈥檚聽problem 鈥 and one that can feel incredibly discouraging.

Depending on the medical issue involved, some women are able to conceive after implementing simple lifestyle changes like weight loss or taking inexpensive medications like Clomid, a hormone treatment that supports the body in producing higher-quality eggs. For other women, the process of growing a family is more arduous, resulting in more costly, time-consuming treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF) or even surrogacy or adoption.

But no matter the root cause or course of treatment, infertility can be a major stressor on women and their partners. Financial stressors and insurance issues, relational tension, and physical side effects of treatments 聽鈥 coupled with the emotional strain of uncertainty 鈥 make infertility an all-consuming process.

Brianne L., 33, who has been trying to get pregnant for a year and a half, says she鈥檚 been open with loved ones about her struggle with infertility, which has been helpful in preventing isolation. But, to Collura鈥檚 point, her openness has also come at an emotional cost.

鈥淪haring your journey opens you up to people鈥檚 opinions or unsolicited advice, or stories about their friend or cousin or mom who stopped trying and immediately got pregnant, or changed jobs and got pregnant, or after adopting got pregnant,鈥 she tells Brit + Co. 鈥淚 have stories like that too, but it doesn鈥檛 mean that鈥檚 how my story will end.鈥

Well-intentioned loved ones have gone so far as to suggest adoption to Brianne. 鈥淭hat suggestion hurt for a lot of reasons, but mostly because as an adoptee myself, I鈥檝e always dreamed of having a family who looks like me, who I can see myself in, who I know will love and accept because they are mine without complication or reason to doubt,鈥 she says. 鈥淪tarting the adoption process feels like giving up hope. We aren鈥檛 there yet, and that鈥檚 something my husband and I will decide together, so please don鈥檛 ever suggest to someone that they 鈥榮hould just adopt.鈥欌

Infertility, and the pain that comes with it, looks different for every individual. After having two sons, Kelli Ghenov, 34, is facing secondary infertility, or the inability to conceive after previously having a baby. Though they鈥檝e been aware of the issue for three years, Ghenov and her husband have decided IVF isn鈥檛 an option for their family, so she鈥檚 hopeful surgery on her fallopian tube will increase the likelihood of conception. Throughout her journey, Ghenov has been surprised by how many people suggested she just 鈥渟top stressing and trying鈥 for a period of time, and 鈥渋t just might happen.鈥

鈥淭he choices involved with infertility are highly difficult, personal decisions and even the slightest disapproval can be wounding and shaming,鈥 Ghenov says. 鈥淚nstead of sharing your opinion on the chances or financial impact of different options, listen as we process our loss, emotions, and options. Acknowledge and grieve the disappointments. And celebrate the hopeful moments with us.鈥

Do you have an infertility story? We鈥檇 love to hear from you @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)