An Anonymous Patient’s Perspective on Secondary Infertility

My husband and I originally wanted four children. Once we had our son and felt ready for kiddo number two, we conceived once again.

Then, we had a miscarriage.

None of my friends or family had experienced a miscarriage, so I felt like I had no one to turn to.
We waited almost a year before attempting to get pregnant again. But our delight soon transformed to sadness when we miscarried for the second time.

After the second miscarriage, I sought the help of a perinatologist. I wanted to understand why I kept miscarrying and figure out how to fix the problem. Even though the doctors performed a lot of tests, they were never able to pinpoint a cause.

We attempted a third time, and I was able to conceive.

Unfortunately, this pregnancy also ended with a miscarriage.

At this point, we turned to Shady Grove Fertility where Dr. Esposito identified the likely cause of my miscarriages.

When I got pregnant again; this time it was with twins. I remember calling Dr. Esposito and telling her not to close my file because I didn’t have a good feeling about it. I felt a lot of anxiety and fear, and at 9 weeks I was told that neither sac was functional and that there were no heartbeats.

I was shattered.

While it was difficult to retain hope of a happy outcome through this all, we persisted. Using IVF with preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), we retrieved 12 eggs and two fertilized normally. The attempt was successful. I was pregnant.

But pregnancy didn’t settle my nerves. I had proven I could get pregnant, but staying pregnant was the issue. So I was on edge—and I stayed on edge until the day when my newborn daughter was placed in my arms.

Getting pregnant is like riding a bike, right?

You’ve gotten pregnant before, so surely you can have a successful pregnancy again.
Well, not necessarily. While some women find getting pregnant with baby two…or three…or four…no more challenging than conceiving their first bundles of joy; others have a decidedly different experience.

In fact, experiencing difficulty conceiving a baby after you’ve already had one successful pregnancy, also known as secondary infertility, is more common than you might expect. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 3.5 million American women experience secondary infertility. At Shady Grove Fertility, approximately 50 percent of the patients we see are seeking support as a result of secondary infertility.

Statistics suggest that the frequency of secondary infertility is on the rise. According to the same data source, just more than 2.5 million American women experienced secondary infertility in 1982, meaning the number of women affected has increased by 1 million in the span of 30 years.
Although this problem may seem perplexing and paradoxical, there are some logical reasons why secondary infertility is presenting an increasing challenge for couples who want to expand their families.

What factors contribute to secondary fertility?

The answer to the question, “Why am I having a hard time having a baby now when I didn’t have difficulty before?” isn’t always the same for every woman.

Upon exploring the underlying causes of secondary infertility, some women find that they have a fertility-related issue—such as PCOS—that, by all accounts, should have prevented them from having their first child.

For other women, however, something has changed between the birth of the first child and their attempt at conceiving and carrying another.

Some common change factors that cause difficulty conceiving a second child include:

Maternal age

You are older when you have baby number two than you were when you had baby number one. Because fertility declines with age, having that second or third child becomes more difficult.

Internal issues

In the span of time between the birth of your first child and your attempt at conceiving baby number two, changes within your body may have occurred. Changes to your uterus, infections, or even Fallopian tube issues could make getting and staying pregnant more difficult.

Male-factor infertility

If you’re attempting to have your second child with a different partner than your first, male factor infertility could be contributing to your struggle.

Weight gain

Many people gain weight as they get older. Being overweight or obese can cause fertility-related struggles, making conception more challenging.

When facing secondary fertility, is it normal to…

Feel out of place among fertility patients? Yes.

As you sit in the waiting room for your appointment, you might feel like you don’t belong in a fertility center. You’ve been pregnant. You’ve had a baby. Is it even right for you to be considering such medical measures?

Having one child doesn’t necessarily make dealing with infertility any easier. You still have a right to feel a longing to have another child, and a right to pursue treatment.

Also, remember that about half of our patients deal with secondary infertility. So in a waiting room of 10, five likely have a child at home.

Feel pressure from existing children? Yes.

Many kids ask for siblings. They see their friends with brothers and sisters, and they want one, too.
If your child is old enough, you may feel comfortable having a discussion with him or her about the challenges and feelings surrounding bringing another baby home. You can tell your child that you would like to have another child but aren’t able to right now.

If a conversation doesn’t feel appropriate, you can remind your child that you love him or her and your family of three.

Feel guilty? Yes.

Despite the fact that secondary infertility isn’t your fault, mothers commonly feel that if they had tried to add a second child earlier, their attempts would have been successful.
The only way to overcome this emotion is to remind yourself—often repeatedly—that secondary fertility is not your fault.

Feel relief? Yes.

You want a second baby… you really do… so why do you feel a tinge of relief?

Having a baby—especially a second one—can cause a wide array of fears and emotions. Many people experience equal parts excitement and trepidation about having another child.
How would an additional child change your existing family? Because there is no way to tell, you may feel relief at not having to face this uncertainty.

Feeling relief doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong or that there is anything wrong with you.

Where can I get support?

Secondary infertility can be a difficult topic to discuss with those who haven’t faced this challenge before.

Friends and family may dispense well-intentioned but ill-informed advice like, “Just enjoy the child you do have,” or “Relax. It will happen when you least expect it.”

While some people can wrap their heads around the emotions that accompany secondary infertility on their own, others benefit from discussing their experience with those who have been or are going through secondary infertility.

If you have a friend or family member you can turn to, you should do so to the degree that you feel comfortable. If you don’t—or if you would feel more comfortable talking to someone else—seek out a free Shady Grove Fertility support group led by one of our social workers.

And remember, speak to your doctor about the emotions you are experiencing as you go through the fertility process. Fertility care professionals can provide you with support directly or point you in the direction of the confidant you seek.

For more information about secondary infertility or to schedule an appointment, please call our New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or click here to complete this brief online form.