Are Fertility Clinic Waiting Rooms Depressing to You?

Tracy Whitney


No one likes sitting in a waiting room, especially if the waiting room decor is drab or sterile. When you are on the path of fertility treatments, sitting in a fertility clinic waiting room, week after week can evoke a lot of painful emotions, regardless of the décor or the warmth of the room.

Fertility clinic waiting rooms can be depressing places

A member of our online community posed the question, “Are Fertility Clinic Waiting Rooms Depressing to You?” and the ensuing conversation brought up a lot of interesting issues. Surprisingly though, there wasn’t much talk about the design choices or color schemes.

The Elephant in the Room

When you walk into a warmly-appointed, welcoming waiting room, it’s easy to sit down and take a breath for a moment or two. However, then you remember: “something is wrong,” and it’s hard to ignore that, no matter how rich the décor or luxurious the chairs.

Monica put it well:

The waiting room was the hardest part of being at the clinic. You can feel the black clouds and the elephant in the room.

Am I One of Them?

Beginning treatment – getting answers and setting a plan – feels quite hopeful for many patients. Sitting in the fertility clinic waiting room feels hopeful. Those early days are also when you might notice the beautiful artwork or the light and airy feel in the space.

Julie revealed that in the early days of treatment, she couldn’t identify with the other patients in the waiting room in her state of hopefulness. After several unsuccessful tries with IUI, she realized she was “one of them.”

Sitting among the other waiting patients, one member observed that all the couples around her “seemed so sad and anxious.” Another member realized that they were “seeing the same folks day after day, month after month” and as a result just hated being there. None of those patients mentioned a word about décor.

Keep Your Head Down

A couple of the patients shared what they did to cope with the depressing waiting room experience. One trick was to observe the people around her and pray for each of them while she waited. She said, “It helped me not focus on myself so much.”

Several folks mentioned that waiting room patients tend not to interact with those around them. Instead, many keep their heads down in their phones or a magazine – if only to avoid looking at the pictures of babies on the walls.

That begged the question for many: whether in the waiting room or back in the treatment areas, why on earth would a fertility clinic plaster pictures of happy mommas and babies all over the walls?

That design choice is a questionable one for many patients. One woman mentioned that she actually asked: “where are the pictures of those who don’t get their happy ending?” Not surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be a good answer to that painful – and realistic – question.

Well, That Was Awkward

Some fertility clinic waiting rooms are one central space where all the patients and partners wait together. This kind of a waiting room set up created some discomfort for both the men and those who knew what he was there to contribute to the treatment plan.

Anna put it quite succinctly,

…when a man walks in by himself, goes back for like 10-15 minutes, and then leaves. It’s just awkward because we all know what’s happening, nobody wants to make eye contact, and nobody’s in a happy place.

However, clinics with separate men’s waiting areas are no less depressing. Marcy said that after sitting there in all that discomfort, “the regular reception area seemed downright cheery.” I doubt that was a reference to sunshine-yellow painted walls and happy little throw pillows.

It’s All Relative

The feelings evoked in a waiting room exist on a continuum for most patients. One member shared that her fertility clinic waiting room was more depressing than the pediatric cancer unit. There, she said, at least the kids “still tend to do things that make you smile.”

For other patients, the fertility clinic waiting room was not the depressing part of being an infertility patient. One member said it wasn’t terrible because “we weren’t going in expecting bad news – it was always to discuss next steps because we hadn’t gotten pregnant yet with drug A, or drug B.” Instead, she shared that the blood labs where she waited for test results depressed her because they never got good news after a blood test.

Empty Waiting Room

It can indeed become a very depressing place – but a necessary evil – on the way to building your family.

One of the men in the group shared that the waiting room never felt depressing to him. Instead, it felt as if there was a camaraderie, where “everyone was in it together against the same enemy.” Indeed, it feels for many like the most significant battle they’ve ever fought. I hardly think that he was sitting in a camo-draped waiting room or around the Knight’s Table getting pumped for battle. The waiting room décor mattered little in those days of facing that common “enemy.”

The Battle Drags On

Sometimes the battle plan for treatment does not go according to our ideas and expectations. That can be hard to cope with, particularly when your path is marked by the changing seasonal décor in the clinic waiting room. That kind of waiting room décor can then be a stark reminder of how time is passing by.

I remember watching them put up the Christmas decorations, then down and when I still wasn’t pregnant and they were putting up the Christmas tree again a year later I was pretty discouraged.

Ultimately, it seems as if the décor of the fertility clinic waiting room was not what made the rooms feel depressing or not. While a couple of members mentioned style observations like “light and airy” or “old rich money feel” when talking about the style of the waiting room, not surprisingly most were keyed in on the feelings they were having while sitting in that room.

Do you find fertility clinic waiting rooms to be depressing? How were your feelings impacted by your surroundings?


Image Credit: Niall Cook

18/03/2019 | by Tracy Whitney | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 2 Comments

2 Responses to Are Fertility Clinic Waiting Rooms Depressing to You?

  1. Avatar JODY DYER says:

    The worst parts of the infertility treatments were the cost and the frustration at failure after failure. That said, the regular annual visits to the obgyn were worse for me. The waiting room was filled with pregnant women and, forgive me, girls. I fought resentment and grief and always asked my doctors to think of me when they dealt with crisis pregnancies.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      That seems like a reasonable response – the resentment and grief – to that environment when you are facing failure after failure. I’m so sorry that it wasn’t a more hospitable and inclusive space for your grief. Thank you for weighing in and sharing your story.

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