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Secondary Infertility And What It Means

I hate infertility.  I have seen it rob joy and hope and seep despair into beautiful hearts, affecting 1 in 8 couples.  It tears down a woman, crushes a man, and leaves a silent path so that outsiders may judge the aftermath, rather than seeing the true pain of the wreckage.  I have seeen infertility in the raw pain of my friend’s eyes.  I have seen it in the six years my dear, talented, beautiful friend waited for her miracle pregnancy.  I have seen it in the woman that knows she will never have a baby, when the doctors tell her there is nothing else that can be done.

I hate when infertility robs a couple of a first-born child.  I hate it just as much when it robs the second or third or twentieth child.

“I hate the words ‘secondary infertility;’ they’re like bile in the back of my throat, they’re admitting my body doesn’t do what it was designed to do, but sadly those words have been a part of my vocabulary for over a year now.  I wish outsiders understood that the ease of my first pregnancy has nothing to do with the conception of future children. Whether my body can do again what it did before, with ease, is uncertain and not open for comments.  Support and a listening ear are all I need.  I find secondary infertility harder because it feels like failure. I am broken, I am letting my family down and leaving my child without a sibling,” aches Lindsey of Waking Up Williams.

According to RESOLVE.org, secondary infertility “is defined as the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications.”

In short?  A woman has trouble getting or staying pregnant again.

“I thought I was as fertile as can be since I was pregnant 3 weeks after I stopped birth control with my first.  I think that’s what’s made this so hard.  With my first, I figured it would take a few months at least.  But after I got pregnant the first time trying, I figured I’d always have it that easy.  We are now on our 14th cycle TTC (trying to conceive).  All signs point to unexplained secondary infertility.  I’m fine.  My husband is fine.  We just can’t get pregnant.  I feel so guilty talking about it and being depressed about it, because I already have one precious son.  A lot of people don’t even get that.  But it doesn’t help that I come from a family of 4 and know how wonderful it is to have brothers and sisters,” explains Lacy, who is a friend of mine.

A woman going through secondary infertility is the woman that people advise to “just give up” since she’s already a mother.  Family and friends shake their heads and tell her to be thankful for the child(ren) she already has.  People brush aside her pain, assuming that the joy of her first-born makes infertility sting less.  People whisper behind her back that maybe she waited too long to have another one, or maybe something was “wrong” with her first pregnancy.

“In 2001 I was told that I would never be able to get pregnant on my own due to the severity of my PCOS.  In Nov 2006 I learned I was pregnant. I was also 30 weeks along. My baby girl was born in January 2007. She was healthy and perfect in every way possible, just as she is today. Due to my PPD, I went through a lot of different BCP. Eventually, I gave up and had an IUD put in in 2009. The IUD was removed in 2010 for a few reasons, one being to have a second baby. From April 2010 to January 2012 we tried with no success. I went to my OBGYN in January and she ordered some tests (HSG and Semen Analysis) which all came back fine and I was prescribed Clomid. My dosage is 50mg during cycle days 3-7. I’ve completed March and April and am currently waiting to see if we were lucky this round,” hopes Jess of Trying for Two.

The causes for secondary infertility are often the same causes as primary infertility. According to the Mayo Clinic, secondary infertility can arise from the following:

  • impaired sperm production, function or delivery
  • fallopian tube damage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis
  • complications from prior pregnancies
  • changes in risk factors (age, weight, medications)

If you are suffering from secondary infertility, the general rule of thumb is to contact at reproductive specialist after one year of unsuccessful attempts to conceive. (If you are over the age of 35, it is standard to see a reproductive specialist after only six months of trying.) But if you find yourself unsure, it never hurts to call even before that year “timeline.” The options for treatment range from medication to homeopathic, so it is essential to find a doctor that fits your needs as you continue the journey.

“I wish people understood how deeply personal the feelings are behind the shape and size a parent’s family takes. Friends note how much worse it’d be if I didn’t have the first. True, but it can feel belittling. Our pain is real, our longing is intense. I’m now seeing the flip side of this, however; well-intentioned friends and family who have been incredibly supportive of my vision for two kids now can’t accept an emerging desire to move on with our lives and stop treatment. What they think is encouragement feels like added pressure,” says Ali of Niblets & Bits.  In addition to medical intervention, Ali encourages those suffering secondary infertility to remember that “you’re not alone, your sadness is real and doesn’t mean you’re not also madly in love with your child.”

Read more by Beth Anne:

Hope For The Mommas of Toddlers…a sweet note of encouragement.

Working Mommas Do Raise Their Babies…addressing a really obnoxious opinion.

Beth Anne writes words & takes pictures on The Heir to Blair.
You can also find her on the Twitters & Facebook.

photo credit: flickr

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