The Secret Suffering
The Devastating Condition of Secondary Infertility
Still an unacknowledged and hidden condition, secondary infertility affects more than three million Americans. Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. Despite the fact that a couple already has a child, secondary infertility impacts them as the loss of a child, the loss of pregnancy and the loss of childbirth. It is a devastating condition.
What's the Problem?
Secondary infertility has, in fact, a higher rate of incidence than primary infertility. Even though this is true, couples are less likely to seek help for it than for primary infertility. After having conceived, carried and delivered a baby with ease the first time, a couple is often caught totally unaware when they have difficulty having another child. Somewhere in their psyche is a belief that says past fertility ensures future fertility. Even doctors tend to downplay this kind of situation, advising the couple to keep trying and ensuring them that it's probably not a major concern. A couple in this situation will often consume themselves with feelings of guilt and self-blame, especially if they have fertility treatments later on and those treatments are unsuccessful. They blame themselves for not having taken more aggressive measures earlier on - as they get older the situation becomes more complicated and they are less likely to be able to conceive.
A World Out of Control and in Pain
The impact upon a couple experiencing secondary infertility is a mix of all kinds of emotions, from feelings of anger and grief to depression and isolation. Guilt, jealousy and self-blame add to the sense of being out of control. On top of that, a couple may feel guilty for grieving and worry about the child they already have and how it will affect them. Powerless to produce a sibling for their child and unable to perpetuate the parenting role often genders profound sorrow. Distance can grow between a couple and their friends as now those friends, who were likely great sources of support when they were parenting their first child, become a source of pain and jealousy.
"You Should Be Happy with the One Your Have"
Since secondary infertility is often not acknowledged, and there is already a child in the picture, a couple tends to receive a lot less social support from others. There is no concrete loss in the family so the pain in imperceptible to others. Additionally, couples experiencing secondary infertility may come under criticism. They are told that they should be thankful for the child they have already and not to focus on increasing their family size. A couple can be, and most often are, extremely happy for their child, but they still may want to have more.
Open the Lines of Communication
In order for a couple to overcome the intense feelings of isolation that often come along with secondary infertility, and in order to maintain a strong social network, it is important for them to educate their friends and family about the emotional trauma this issue has attached to it. By explaining how they are affected and how painful it is to be in their situation, perhaps it will help friends understand that when there is an invitation to a baby shower it can also be an invitation to heartache and pain. Hopefully, the friends will recognize it is not a lack of interest but a need to heal.