What Is Secondary Infertility?
Many couples believe that once they've had a baby, having subsequent children will be just as easy. It's often surprising when infertility strikes while trying for a first, second, or even third child. This difficulty conceiving other children is called secondary infertility. It is not considered secondary infertility if your first child was conceived using fertility treatment. Primary infertility occurs when a woman has difficulty conceiving her first child.
What Causes Secondary Infertility?
Just like primary infertility, there are many different factors that can cause secondary infertility. Sometimes the cause is fairly obvious (e.g., if you or your partner has had surgery or an illness which directly affects the reproductive organs). If you've had a previous Cesarean section, the surgery may have caused scarring of the uterine wall that can affect your ability to get pregnant.
It's also very important to remember that your natural fertility declines from year to year as well. Even through you had your first child easily at the age of thirty-three, waiting until the age of thirty-eight before trying for your next child may cause significant problems the second time around. A woman's fertility significantly declines around the age of thirty-five and decreases more so each following year. The rate of genetic diseases and abnormalities also increases dramatically as a woman ages.
Coping with Secondary Infertility
Couples facing secondary infertility have unique needs and issues. They often struggle with feelings of guilt over not being grateful for the children they already have or for not being able to provide them with siblings. Family and friends may even directly ask when the next one is coming along. And yet, given the fact that they have children, it may be uncomfortable connecting with other couples dealing with primary infertility.
What you share with others is entirely up to you. Your family and friends are of course very important to you and you may feel comfortable sharing your struggles to conceive again. Then again, you may not. It can be helpful to have a discussion with your partner about who you plan to tell what. This ensures that you are both on the same page, and nobody is surprised by a distant relative asking very personal questions. If you decide to talk to your family about it, be prepared for questions. Most people have never heard of secondary infertility and are probably not trying to be insensitive.
There are a number of major organizations that can provide support and information. Check out
Talking to Your Children about Secondary Infertility
One of the most difficult aspects of secondary infertility is talking to your children about it. They may be wondering why they don't have any brothers or sisters and may ask you, quite incessantly, for siblings. And of course, they don't understand that you may be trying and having difficulty.
So what should you tell your child? The answer to that depends on their age, maturity level, and your own comfort level. Some parents choose to tell their children that they are trying to have a baby and need some help from the doctor to do so. Others choose not to tell their children anything at all until they are pregnant and are confident in the pregnancy, particularly if they've had multiple losses. Be aware that children are very observant and have active imaginations. They may become concerned when they see that you are visiting the doctor, and overhear you whispering about the blood tests and treatments that you may frequently require in the coming months. Further, it is just as important to not give your children too much information and displace your own feelings of fear and grief onto them.