Tags: In This Issue, Women's Health
Dealing with Secondary Infertility
In February of 2011, I gave birth to my first baby, a beautiful boy named Julian. I instantly took to being a mom, and quickly forgot about a difficult pregnancy as I looked forward to growing my family. I had easily conceived the first time, and completely took for granted that I'd be able to do so again.
However, six months after having Julian, my period had not returned, so I went to my OB/GYN. I had recently stopped breastfeeding, so he said to wait a few weeks to see if it would return naturally. It did not, so my doctor prescribed Provera to get it started. That didn't work, and we spent several more months trying other treatments, before realizing that I wasn't ovulating, either. I was prescribed Clomid, a medicine used to induce ovulation. It took three cycles, each increasing in dosage, to get me ovulating, and then another two to get pregnant.
I'm now 30 weeks along with my second child, and couldn't be happier. I realize that, despite how frustrating my experience was, I had it relatively easy. I am grateful that everything worked out the way it did, and recognize that many families have to go through so much more to get pregnant again. And, for some couples, the second baby just never comes.
Treating Secondary Infertility
Secondary infertility, or when a couple tries for more than a year without conceiving despite having successfully conceived once, is just as common as infertility, and in many ways, can be more frustrating. According to statistics from the Center for Disease Control, roughly 11% of couples that already have a child experience secondary infertility. That represents approximately 4 million families, or roughly half of all infertility cases.
What would change to prevent pregnancy the second time around? A lot, says Dr. Leo Bonaventura of American Health Network-reproductive medicine, Carmel Indiana. "Getting pregnant is a very complex process which can break down without any rhyme or reason. Some of these break downs can be egg maturity issues, tubal dysfunction, sperm issues, uterine problems, and cyclic center problems, and age."
If you're having trouble getting pregnant again, Dr. Bonaventura says it's imperative to talk to your doctor right away. He says that a complete physical exam of both partners will likely be the initial step, followed by a variety of exams, including semen analysis, evaluation of the uterus and/or fallopian tubes, and hormonal/blood tests.
Sometimes, says Dr. Bonaventure, the solution can be as simple as timing intercourse on the right days up to taking certain medications to help with egg maturity. Alternatively, if the problem is low sperm count, doctors may opt for Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), which helps increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes and thereby boosts the chance of fertilization.
Finally, Dr. Bonaventure explains that more extensive procedures, such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), are done when the problem is delineated. "No one therapy is successful for all patients—every woman is slightly different and that is why the appropriate tests need to be performed before any course of treatment is considered. However, age can certainly factor into the decision to proceed with IVF, as a woman's fertility drops off significantly with age.
Treating secondary infertility is often a long and frustrating process – not to mention financially draining. With each cycle that passes by, it's easy to become more desperate – or hopeless. At some point, the couple needs to be able to step back, reevaluate their options, and perhaps move on.
In fact, once a couple is able to move forward from this process, they'll be open to other avenues for creating a family, such as adoption. Julie Craft experienced secondary infertility following the normal pregnancy and birth of her daughter Lindsey. After two miscarriages and a tubal pregnancy, she and her husband decided to look into adoption.
"I adopted my second daughter, Lauren, in a private adoption back in 1984 when they were relatively new," she says. Wanting to help others in similar situations, Craft founded The Adoption Support Center in Indianapolis to help couples have the same success.
Craft says that while she enjoys making couples first-time parents, she especially loves helping families experiencing secondary infertility to "continue to grow through adoption."
Expanding Your Family
If you are experiencing secondary infertility, the first thing to recognize is that you are not alone, and there are several options to explore in order to successfully grow your family. Whether you decide to seek out hormonal therapies, medical treatments, or decide to choose adoption, rest assured that you'll find your next child when the time is right.
In fact, when you embrace your child for the first time, it won't matter how they got into your arms. "Having both given birth and adopted a child, I can say there is no difference in how much I love them," says Craft. "I believe that you get the child you were meant to raise."