‘Why can’t I get pregnant again?’ Parents who had no trouble having one child (or two) may wonder why they’re suddenly having trouble conceiving. Three or four years pass, and still no baby. ‘Maybe it’s just stress,’ friends say, ‘go take a second honeymoon!’ However, a week in Hawaii may not be enough. You may be suffering from secondary infertility.
1. What is secondary infertility?
Secondary infertility is the inability to get pregnant, or carry a pregnancy to full-term, even after you’ve had children. It’s actually more common than people think, accounting for as much as 60% of all infertility cases.
It can be caused by a number of factors. This includes age (the older you get, the harder it is to conceive), hormonal imbalance, and medical conditions that block your fallopian tubes and prevent the egg from attaching to your uterine lining (such as pelvic inflammatory diseases and ovarian cysts). our partner may also be producing less, or weaker, sperm (causes include age, stress, alcohol and smoking). Obesity can also affect fertility for both men and women.
There are 3.3 million reported cases of secondary infertility a year. Millions more women suffer from the problem, but don’t seek treatment.
2. How can I know if I have second infertility?
Visit your doctor if you have trouble conceiving after one year of conscious effort to get pregnant. He or she will administer several tests, ideally to both you and your partner. This includes checking your blood hormone levels, pelvic ultrasounds and pelvic exams, FSH and clomid challenge test to verify your ovarian reserves, and semen analysis. Your doctor may also give special tests (like laparoscopy, progestine challenge, or thyroid tests) if he or she suspects a special condition.
3. How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant?
If your doctor identifies a health condition that is directly affecting your ability to conceive, then you’re already won half the battle. At least you can get the right medication and treatment.
If the tests come out negative, you can still increase your chance for conception. The first step is to time intercourse. Try to have sex every three days between the tenth and eighteenth day after you get your period. You can also monitor your ‘fertile days’ using a basal body thermometer.
Review your lifestyle for anything that could be affecting your fertility. Quit smoking or drinking alcohol, and try to reach your ideal weight through healthy diet and exercise (note: crash diets can lead to poor nutrition, which lowers your ability to conceive).
You can also ask your doctor about fertility treatments. Even without ‘major’ interventions like in vitro fertilizations, up to 60% of couples are able to conceive after getting the right therapy. You and your partner can also explore homeopathic cures.
4. Can I prevent secondary infertility?
It’s important for you to know that you can’t cause infertility—this is not your fault, and you didn’t commit some one, big mistake. Infertility is affected by genetics, environment (such as exposure to certain toxins or hazards) and sheer luck. So let go of that guilt. You’re going through enough, already!
However, you can be proactive in the sense that you ‘manage’ your fertility, given your unique medical history and levels of risk. Some steps include watching your weight, seeking immediate treatment for vaginal infections (which can lead to complications of the reproductive tract), controlling your stress levels, and taking advantage of your most fertile years (20 to 35 years old).
5. How can I cope with secondary infertility?
Many couples describe the experience as an emotional roller coaster: hope that can crash into deep frustration, pressure from family and friends, guilt, envy or resentment towards friends who are pregnant or have babies, alienation and loneliness (‘nobody understands what I’m going through’), guilt and regret.
From this stems the irony that stress can contribute to infertility, but infertility always breeds stress. You and your partner need to acknowledge that this is a hard situation—don’t bottle up emotions or worse take it out on one another. Seek support (from online communities, trusted and compassionate friends and family, or a licensed counselor). Find activities that can help boost your spirits and funnel all that nervous energy into something positive. While your doctor does everything to help you physically, your job is to help yourself emotionally. Don’t get sucked into despair.
You can find online support at forums like Daily Strength. Those who struggle with infertility after a loss (such as miscarriage, pre-term delivery or neonatal death) can visit MISS (Mothers in Sympathy and Support). Couples seeking faith-centered support can go to Hannah’s Prayer