Right now my husband and I are parents to one beautiful three-month-old son. Just lately I’ve begun to think about when I want to have another baby. Do I want them close in age? Will it be easier if I wait? Then the thought crosses my mind: what if we couldn’t conceive a second time? How would I react?
Most people assume that once you have a child, you won’t have trouble conceiving another. The truth is 60% of infertility cases involve couples who have already conceived at least once. When this happens, it’s called Secondary Infertility. It’s more common than you might think: in 1995, 3.3 million American women were experiencing secondary infertility.
Secondary infertility happens for a number of reasons. Small changes in lifestyle and general health can have a large impact on reproductive health. Eating less healthy foods, gaining weight, getting an infection, and even aging can all impact fertility. Sometimes couples discover that their first child was “one in a million,” born despite issues that normally prevent conception, issues that are undiscovered until the couple cannot conceive a second child. Ovulation problems, endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, and uterine fibroids or polyps can all lead to infertility.
Sometimes couples who are struggling with secondary infertility are criticized by family or friends for not being grateful for the children they already have. The couple may experience guilt and this may affect whether or not they seek fertility treatment from a specialist. Another reason couples may fail to seek help is they have bought into the notion that they are fertile because they have children. Unfortunately some practitioners feed into this false assumption by encouraging the couple to “just keep trying.” Regardless of whether you have children, it is wise to seek help after 12 months of regular unprotected sex if you are under 35, or 6 months if you are over 35. Other problems may lead you to seek help sooner, such as multiple miscarriages or irregular periods.
Secondary infertility is nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with wanting more children or a sibling for your only child. Children are a blessing! With proper care and support from your family, you and your spouse will be able to make the right decision about how to approach the issue.
Have you or a family member experienced secondary infertility? How did you cope? Did you seek fertility treatment?