Secondary infertility affects one in ten couples who already have a child and are finding it difficult when they try to conceive again
When you are already a parent, you may not expect to have difficulty having another child; it may come as a surprise to discover that at least one in ten parents will have problems when they try to conceive again. This is known as secondary infertility.
If you’ve got pregnant easily in the past, it may take some time before you accept that something is wrong as month after month goes by without a pregnancy. You may delay seeking medical advice, and it can be a real shock if you discover that you are going to need help to have another child.
No one understands
There is usually a degree of sympathy for those who are involuntarily childless, but if you’ve already got a child, or children, you may find that other people don’t seem to understand why you find it so difficult not to be able to conceive. People often assume that you should be happy that you already have a family, and it is hard to explain how devastating secondary infertility can feel.
Fertility support networks tend to focus on the childless, and as a parent with fertility problems it’s easy to feel lonely and isolated. You may not be comfortable seeking out fertility support, and some parents say that even going along to a fertility clinic makes them feel a sense of guilt when they are with others who don’t have children.
I can’t escape
Childless couples often try to avoid being around pregnant women, babies and small children when they are trying to conceive, but that’s simply not possible when you are already a parent. You will inevitably spend time at your child’s nursery or school, at the playground or park, and you will not be able to avoid bumps and babies. You may find that other people feel it is fine to ask a parent questions about when or whether they are going to have another child, and this can be difficult too.
Completing the family
If you are a parent trying for another baby, you know the joys of having a child, and have a clear understanding of what you are missing out on by not being able to conceive again. What’s more, you may also feel guilty about not being able to provide a brother or sister for your existing child.
Young children often start talking about wanting siblings, especially if their friends have baby brothers or sisters. When you are experiencing difficulty conceiving this can take on an added significance for you as a parent, but if you listen carefully to what your child says you may find that they actually talk more often about wanting a dog or a new bicycle than a baby. You are unlikely to feel any guilt if you tell them they can’t have everything that they want when they are asking for pets or toys, but the desire for a sibling is more meaningful for you and may be harder to address.
Many fertility support networks have members who are experiencing secondary infertility, and if you are able to get together with others who are having similar problems, whether in person or online, this can be helpful. Counselling can be very beneficial too, and will give you a space to be honest about your feelings, and to work out some coping strategies. Talk to your clinic about the support which is available, and try to make use of anything you are offered.
Secondary infertility comes with it’s own challenges, and seeking out help will make a real difference. You should never feel that you are less deserving of advice and support just because you are already a parent.
Writer and journalist
Kate Brian is a journalist, writer and author of four books on motherhood and fertility, including The Complete Guide to IVF. Kate started writing about the patient perspective on infertility after having IVF herself.
Currently, she contributes to various types of media as an expert on fertility and writes her own blog, where she gives all the latest news and views on fertility issues, as well as useful advice and links for anyone trying to have a baby.