You and your partner might be dreaming of having more than one child. You might be dreaming that dream even after dealing with the poop, sleepless nights, and shenanigans doled out by the first kid. So either you’re crazy, selectively forgetful, or have too much love in your hearts. It’s probably a combination of all three.
That said, it can be incredibly devastating if you find yourselves struggling with conception when you’re already a parent. It’s called secondary infertility, and it carries with it a unique set of issues. Here’s what you need to know.
READ MORE: The Fatherly Guide to IVF
Secondary Infertility Basics
Like plain-old infertility, secondary infertility is diagnosed after a year of well-timed sex (in the cycle-sense not the rhythm-sense), or if you’ve suffered through the awfulness of multiple miscarriages. The only real difference in a secondary infertility diagnosis is that you’ve already had a kid without help from assisted reproductive therapies (ART) like in vitro fertilization (IVF).
If this is you, you’re not alone. Based on the most recent numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), over 3 million women in the United States between 2008 and 2010 had trouble conceiving after their first kid.
Why It Happens
Your trouble conceiving another kid is likely linked to the same issues that create primary infertility. More than that, it is just as likely the issue rests with you as it does your partner. The woman is linked to 30 percent of fertility problems. The man is responsible for another 30 percent. The remaining 40 percent represents a combination of issues between him and her. These issues include:
If you started your parenting journey later in life, it’s possible that advanced maternal age can become a significant factor in secondary infertility. That’s because after 35, women’s fertility tends to significantly decline.
After the first kid, it gets very easy to gain weight. Dadbod is not a myth. Nor is the fact that excess weight can alter hormones that help you produce healthy sperm. Those same hormonal changes are what drives your partner’s reproductive system too. If she has struggled to maintain a healthy weight, it could be affecting her fertility and ability to carry a baby to term as well.
Secondary infertility is also linked to complications in a previous pregnancy or delivery. Trauma or infection to your partner’s reproductive system could easily lead to the inability for an egg to implant.
Sperm Quality And Quantity
Any number of lifestyle choices you’ve made after becoming a father could decrease the health and healthy production of your sperm. These include poor diet, drug and alcohol use, too little or too much exercise, or even exposure to environmental toxins. So checking out your sperm count and understanding what’s happening with your swimmers should be one of the first courses of action you should take.
Treatments for secondary infertility are much the same as treatments for primary infertility. They can include drugs, or a variety of ART-including IVF, surrogacy, or egg donation, althhough having a kid may increase the barriers to accessing these therapies. Parents have to take a much more careful look at the time, energy and money it will take to undergo treatment.
Unique Problems With Secondary Infertility
Unlike primary infertility, those going through secondary infertility deal with a unique set of problems. The fact you already have a kid is at the heart of any additional stress.
Lack Of Support
Some parents dealing with secondary infertility do not feel they receive (or even deserve) the support often given to people experiencing primary infertility. The thought being that “you shouldn’t complain” if you already have a kid that you love. But that does not make the grief of infertility any less real. That’s why it’s important you continue to reach out for support as you go through the process.
Grief And Your Kid
Your kid is probably way more tuned into you than you think they are. They likely sense the pain and struggle you and your partner are experiencing. If they don’t know why, the inherent ego-centrism they carry around will likely make them feel you’re struggling because of them. That makes it important to communicate to your kid in an age-appropriate way about what’s going on. They may need some extra attention.
In the grand scheme of things you’ll have to weigh the time, energy and cost of addressing secondary infertility with needs your family currently has. It’s a tough decision, but know that no matter what path you choose, your kid will be just fine whether they have a sibling or not. And they’ll definitely benefit from all the craziness, selective amnesia, and extra love you have to give them.