Holding your baby for the first time is still engrained in your mind as though it were only yesterday that they were born. You can still remember their small frame sleeping in your arms quietly cooing in their sleep as their chest slowly rises and lowers. The genuine love and immediate sense of protection is overwhelming, yet it is everything that was ever hoped for when becoming a parent.
A few months or a year have since flown by and it’s time for baby #2! It’s natural to assume that if conception was easy the first time around, then the second time should be a breeze. Months pass and the pregnancy tests are negative time and time again.
What’s going on?
Panic starts to sit in as you realize that it’s not happening for unexplained reasons. You start questioning everything, and you slowly start to become an emotional wreck as you deal with your pregnancy woes.
The reality is that regardless of how easy it was to conceive the first time, it does not automatically mean that the second time around will be just as easy. Unfortunately some people are diagnosed with secondary infertility. It’s a scary two-word diagnosis, but what does it mean?
- Secondary Infertility
- the inability to become pregnant without protection while having frequent sex for longer than a year by a couple who previously had a child.
Secondary infertility does not discriminate.
Among the possible causes of secondary infertility are:
1. Impaired sperm count, function and/or delivery in men
This can lead to fertility complications because even when the woman is ovulating, the sperm may never make it to the egg to fertilize. Most commonly, men suffer from low sperm count and low sperm mobility. There are medications that can help with this issue, but it is not guaranteed to fix the problem at hand. This issue could have existed when you conceived the first time but you may have just gotten lucky that time around.
2. Ovulation issues, endometriosis, fallopian tube blockage and/or complications due to infection
Any of these issues in women can prevent implantation from happening. Oftentimes these issues play a huge role in preventing pregnancy.
Most couples who are trying to conceive the second time around may have developed some of these issues as a result of their previous pregnancies, while others may have had these issues all along but never had them affect their pregnancies.
3. Complications due to previous pregnancies
Unfortunately, complications due to previous pregnancies can result in secondary infertility, such as adhesions that have formed around the fallopian tubes which may have developed due to an infection during a previous pregnancy. Such complications can be treated.
4. Changes in age, weight and medications of both the male and female
Advancements in age play a role in how likely one is to get pregnant while excessive weight gain can lead to other complications. Certain medications can actually cause issues and prevent pregnancy from occurring. Consulting with your doctor will help clarify some of these possible issues as well as possibly help correct them.
5. Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise
What you eat, or fail to eat, can increase or decrease your possibility of conceiving among other things directly affecting the reproductive system. Excessive exercise can cause strain on the body and too much strain can affect the viability of the reproductive system among other things.
Unknown factors affect millions of people, and there is no doubt that this diagnosis is the hardest to “accept.” Not knowing what is causing these infertility issues and not knowing how to fix them can be challenging for both partners. In some cases, couples just may not have the capability to conceive.
How do you cope with it?
More than one million couples deal with secondary infertility according to the National Survey of Family Growth. Couples who have already had a child are in disbelief that they are having problems conceiving, but the numbers are staggering. They’re not alone in this journey. Couples experiencing secondary infertility need support from their family and friends along with their fertility doctors. They also need validation and empathy as they are dealing with grief and acceptance of their situation.
The fact of the matter is that secondary infertility can cause frustration, stress and sadness in the couples experiencing it. If you and your spouse, or someone you know, is faced with this situation, it’s critical to educate yourself (through reputable sources) on the condition, as well as what the best decision is for yourself and your family.