What is Secondary Infertility
Secondary infertility is the inability to get pregnant or maintain a pregnancy after having already given birth. It’s more common than you might think, accounting for about 50 percent of infertility cases. In fact, more couples experience secondary infertility than primary infertility (infertility the first time around). It’s especially common in women who wait until their late 30s or even 40s, when fertility takes a nosedive, to have their second babies.
Sadly, couples with secondary infertility tend to receive far less social support from others than couples who have primary infertility because the couple already has a child(ren). But the need for support should not be ignored. A couple can be extraordinarily thankful for their existing child and still long for more children.
What Causes Secondary Infertility?
Among the possible causes of secondary infertility are:
- Impaired sperm production, function or delivery in men
- Fallopian tube damage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis and uterine conditions in women
- Complications related to prior pregnancy or surgery
- Risk factor changes for you or your partner, such as age, weight and use of certain medications
What Can we do?
Before you assume that you need serious intervention just because it’s taking a while to get pregnant, remember that even in the healthiest of couples, there’s only a 20% to 25% chance of conceiving each cycle (which means there’s a 75% to 80% chance of striking out each month).
Before you enlist the help of a doctor, see if there’s something you can do on your own to give your fertility a nudge by looking at the following factors that might be making conception the second time around more elusive:
- Assess your preconception prep. Have you been on top of the preconception game or are you just too busy for baby-planning activities like charting and timing baby-making sex (or any sex for that matter)? Given that you have a little one underfoot, it’s understandable if you’re more exhausted than ever. It’s not easy for wannabe second-time parents to devote as much time and energy to TTC as they likely did on the first go-around, but it would be helpful to take a step back (and a hard look) at what’s going on. Are your cycles still regular, or have there been any changes that might be hurting your chances for conception success? Have you been able to pinpoint ovulation with accuracy, or are you just having sex whenever (which would make conception less likely)? Getting back on track with tracking your fertility signs may be enough to put you back in the game.
Take a look at your lifestyle. Have any of your habits changed since you conceived baby number one? For instance, is your diet still on track, or is there room for improvement? Getting your eating plan up to baby-making speed may help you close in faster on conception. Has your caffeine consumption gone up now that you’re a mom? That’s understandable, but too much caffeine isn’t great for fertility. Has your smoking habit returned? If yes, it’s time to kick butt, since smoking ages your eggs and decreases fertility. Are you getting way too little sleep? That may be likely, especially if your first child is keeping you up at night, but skimping on sleep can mess with your hormones — and possibly your fertility. If any new unhealthy habit has slipped into your lifestyle, now’s a great time to put the brakes on it. And it’s not just about your habits. Is your partner kicking back one too many beers each night? That could be affecting his sperm quality. Ditto for smoking or an unhealthy diet. If your partner’s lifestyle needs a little fine-tuning, make efforts to get his back on track, too.
Consider your health status. Have you started any medications that might be interfering with conception? What about a change in your health status (a new chronic condition that’s cropped up since your first baby was born, for instance)? Any changes to your health could be putting a dent in your conception plans. Perhaps some simple health modifications — like switching to a more fertility-friendly medication, for instance, or getting your chronic condition under control — could bring you closer to the second baby of your dreams.
Step on the scale. Have you put on some extra pounds since your last baby was on board? Or maybe you’ve lost a lot of weight (because after all, who has time to eat when you’re running after a little one)? Your weight can impact your fertility, so getting as close as possible to a healthy BMI can also help get you closer to that second pregnancy you’re hoping for.
When should you see a Doctor?
If you have frequent, unprotected sex but don’t become pregnant — after a year if you’re younger than 35 or after six months if you’re 35 or older — talk to your health care provider.
Physicians can often downplay the possibility of secondary infertility in what was their previously fertile patients and encourage them to “keep on trying”. Advocate for your fertility.
Depending on the circumstances, both you and your partner might need medical evaluations. Your doctor can help determine whether there’s an issue that requires a specialist or treatment at a fertility clinic.
Secondary infertility can be surprising and stressful. It is a very isolating diagnosis as couples that are experiencing secondary infertility are often reluctant to reach out to others, including support groups. They don’t feel like they have sounding board of people who can empathize with the frustration and feelings of guilt, anger, isolation, depression, jealousy and being out of control.
The powerlessness to produce a sibling for the existing child often produces feelings of sorrow, as does complicates the current parenting role. You may feel distant from friends as those who were a great source of support when parenting the first child are now linked to sensations of pain and jealously. There are others out there who are facing the same struggles and complex feelings associated with secondary infertility. Connect with others who “get it” or seek support by finding a Support Group or Mental Health Professional in your area.
Make sure you grab a copy of my FREE guide Trying To Conceive Language & my FREE Self-Care Mini Course. You can access either one by clicking on the title. These are packed full of information that you can begin implementing today to put yourself one step closer to getting pregnant, naturally.
If you’re looking for a group of like-minded women with which to share your fertility wellness journey, be sure to check out my Whole Body Fertility & Wellness Facebook group today!
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