The most common form of female infertility is secondary infertility.
Shocking? So it might seem to most of us. For parents longing to conceive again after having a first child, the phenomenon is very often unexpected. After all, they had a perfectly normal first pregnancy, what could possibly go wrong trying for another one? In reality however, secondary infertility is extremely common and the causes are mostly the same as primary infertility.
So, what exactly is secondary infertility?
Mayo Clinic describes it as: "The inability to become pregnant or to carry a baby to term after previously giving birth to a baby."
The harsh reality is that secondary infertility strikes as an unexpected tragedy for couples trying to expand their family or just working towards their plan of having a certain number of children.
For Lara, 32, and husband James, 34, failing to get pregnant a second time after giving birth only 3 years ago, came as an unforeseen plot twist in their plans of building a family of 4. Lara recalls her first time conceiving as a piece of cake. "We stopped using contraceptives in October and I was pregnant by November. It literally felt like infertility was a problem other people had. For us it was easy peasy. We thought we could actually plan our brood through very calculated steps, given how easy it was for us to get pregnant with Joyce. I wish I knew how delusional I was. If I did I would have sought expert advice a couple of months into trying for baby #2. After trying unsuccessfully for a year and half we realized we needed a fertility specialist's help. That's when we found out I had developed endometriosis, the reason behind our struggle with TTC for a second time."
Secondary infertility is mostly caused by the same factors that are behind primary infertility such as:
Problems with ovulation
Egg quality and quantity
Sperm quality, concentration and motility
Fallopian tube damage
Early onset of Menopause
However, it's still a territory largely unaddressed because of how uncommon people perceive it to be. This perception leads to a number of difficult scenarios for couples and individuals trying for a second child as they feel themselves to be an anomaly of sorts. They have trouble finding guidance, assistance, support and help.
Check in with your emotions
If you or someone you know is going through secondary infertility it is imperative to acknowledge the problem in order to find a fix for it. Many families have trouble finding support within their network as they feel guilty for not being "thankful enough" for the child they already have. People dealing with primary infertility might think of you as not being in as tough a spot as they or, or that your woes are somehow smaller than theirs since you already have a biological child. However, know that infertility trauma is not a finite space that can only be inhabited by a certain group of people. Infertility in any form can be a menace to those trying for a child so don't let these flawed assumptions come in the way of your mental health. Address your problem by acknowledging its existence. You have the right to feel remorseful and angry. Connect with your emotional health in order to begin your healing journey.
Don't worry if you think you wasted time being overly optimistic about conceiving again, it's never too late to start afresh. If you haven't started researching fertility specialists already, it's better to start the search for the best medical experts in your area right away. Schedule an appointment with your Ob/Gyn to get a better picture of what exactly is wrong and see if you need a fertility expert's help. If you're under the age of 35 and have been trying for more than 6 months, or over 35 and been trying for a year, it's probably a good idea to head over to a fertility specialist to get specialized advice and treatment options if applicable.
There's a myriad of support groups and TTC communities out there to help you make sense of your situation. Similar experiences and real-life accounts of people dealing with the exact same situation as yours can help tons in finding a comfort zone for yourself where you can express your frustration and grief.
Do not neglect your child
We understand that doctor's appointments, check-ups, testing and treatment, all take a toll on your family life (not to mention, your bank account) however, remember not to let this struggle adversely impact your relationship with the child that you have. Spend time celebrating their milestones and achievements like you normally would. Schedule your time with them if your infertility treatment and work are consuming your daily routine. Keep a reasonable number of hours dedicated to spending quality time with your kid and let them feel loved and taken care of.
Keep track of your health
Do you think you're in the same good shape as you were for your first pregnancy? Obesity and an unhealthy diet are some of the leading causes of infertility, be it secondary or primary. Maybe you changed your eating habits or resumed some harmful ones such as smoking or over-drinking. Keep in mind that your partner's lifestyle and diet are equally important in your TTC efforts and it's important to take a step back and evaluate what can be improved in your eating and/or exercising patterns, Maintaining a healthy dietary regimen and working out regularly are vital to a successful pregnancy.
Secondary infertility might seem unfair and unjustified however, being proactive about treatment options and building a trusted network of friends, family and other TTC individuals can definitely serve as a starting point for dealing with your condition. Take control of your emotions and start your recovery today.