It seems strange. If a couple has had a child already, you’d think that they’d be able to conceive again. Surprisingly, this isn’t necessarily the case. The cases of secondary infertility are about the same as primary if not even higher.
So, what is Secondary Infertility? It means that a couple is having trouble conceiving another child after having an uncomplicated first pregnancy. It means that they conceived their first child without assistance, but are having issues trying to get pregnant again.
There are a large host of issues that can cause this. Some examples are as follows:
– Age. The complications can begin to arise for women over 35 and men over 40 for good production of eggs and sperm
– Complications in delivery of the first child causing scarring, polyps, tears, etc. of the uterus.
– Fallopian tubes getting blocked
– Stress. Being busy with the first child can throw off your sleeping routine, eating and drinking habits, and pace of life. If you’re exhausted and consuming more caffeine, not getting enough sleep, eating unhealthily, and/or consuming more alcohol, these can all play factors in trying to get pregnant.
– Smoking can cause decreased production of eggs and sperm in men and women
– Other medical conditions
Upon researching this topic, all sites shared that people with secondary infertility go through the same process as those with primary infertility. They will need to seek medical tests and procedures if they haven’t conceived in a certain period of time. If the woman is under 35, the couple will have to wait one year before seeking medical assistance. If older than 35, they can be referred after six months of trying. This is unless there are already underlying medical issues that the doctor knows may be the cause.
Something else I noticed in each article is the battle it is for a couple going through secondary infertility. Though people can have a hard time understanding and supporting a couple dealing with primary infertility, it is even harder for those dealing with secondary infertility. All articles stated that family and friends encourage these couples to be thankful for the child that they already have.
Dealing with primary infertility, I know that I have been guilty of this as well. I’ve looked at couples with one child and thought, “well, at least you have one”. However, whether they do or not shouldn’t be a factor on how much sympathy or empathy we give them. Their hearts are hurting as they desire a bigger family and want a sibling for their first child. It is just as painful a process for this couple to realize that something is wrong and that their dream of a larger family might not come true. They endure the same kind of emotions and grief that those with primary infertility do. We need to be careful that we give them the support that they need (For ideas on what to do, see the post I shared last month – click here).
If you know that a couple is struggling with secondary infertility, offer to watch their child here and there to give them some room to breathe, grieve, and process. Giving them some time for just the two of them will not only support them with their child, but will allow for them to focus on their marriage, which is critical. It’s easy to be consumed by the fertility process, already adding stress to the high needs of raising a young one. Adding the stress of trying to conceive again can be too overwhelming with everything else going on. Your support and help can go a long way in showing them they have people around that love them and care about what they are going through.
All that to say, secondary infertility is quite common and should be handled like that of primary infertility, giving extra awareness that though they are grateful for the child they have, they are still grieving and struggling through the process of trying to conceive. They need all the support and love they can get.
Infertility is something people are often embarrassed about. Having children is something everyone should be able to do. A couple can feel shame when they can’t, so they try to hide that they are dealing with it. Secondary infertility is that much more isolated and lonelier to deal with. The best thing you can do is don’t ask them when they are going to have more kids.
In fact, let’s avoid asking couples when they are going to have kids/more children altogether. It’s just like asking a single person when he/she is going to find someone and get married. I know these questions are part of the social norm, but they can hurt. Let’s try to keep our curiosity to ourselves and embrace each person for the season of life that he or she is in. If you have a hard time avoiding that question, stop and pray silently for that person when they come to mind. Your prayers are the greatest gift and support you can give someone, even if they don’t know it.
For some websites that offer more information regarding secondary infertility, check out the links below: