6 Tips for Surviving Secondary Infertility

Image credit: adapted from Flickr/Yolfie
Image via Flickr/adapted from Yolfie


When my husband and I finally decided to go for baby number 4, I was excited. I had baby fever for well over a year and was hoping soon that my husband would be on board with the idea of adding another family member. I was excited and cautious, given our past history of miscarriage  it was on the forefront of our minds.

Months went by and nothing. Then a few more months went by, and we were starting to get worried. Why weren't we getting pregnant? That's never been our issue before — it had always happened within what I considered a reasonable amount of time. Not this time, however. I made a visit to the doctor, and I was diagnosed with secondary infertility due to anovulation. 

In my experience, secondary infertility generally has less understanding and support available from others than primary infertility. On top of that, it can bring up a lot of different emotions compared to primary infertility for the couple, and it's not something widely understood because it's centered around something that worked before, but isn't now.

The World Health Organization defines infertility as “a disease of the reproductive system defined by the failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sexual intercourse.” When we think about infertility, our first thought tends to go to couples who don't have children yet, but there are two classifications of infertility: primary and secondary. Primary infertility is defined by the World Health Organization as “when a woman is unable to ever bear a child, either due to the inability to become pregnant or the inability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth — she would be classified as having primary infertility.

And then there's secondary infertility, which is defined by the World Health Organization as “when a woman is unable to bear a child, either due to the inability to become pregnant or the inability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth following either a previous pregnancy or a previous ability to carry a pregnancy to a live birth.

For me, I just couldn't wrap my head around why it wasn't working when we had no trouble getting pregnant in the past, and I felt like I didn't receive much support because others couldn't understand why I was so upset since I had three kids already. It can be a very isolating experience, but there are some ways you can cope with and endure through secondary infertility.


Image credit: adapted from Flickr/ jasleen_kaur
Image via Flickr/ jasleen_kaur

Find a supportive doctor:

Having a doctor or a team of doctors you can count on to take your health, fears, and treatment seriously and work in your best interests is important. You want to find someone who you can openly talk to and will take all your views and fears into consideration.


Image credit: adapted from Flickr/ Yolfie
Image via Flickr/ Yolfie

Ask all the questions:

There are a lot of questions and concerns that come up when you're facing infertility; making sure you get the venue and ability to ask them all and not feel rushed can help you feel more control.


Image credit: adapted from Flickr/ tom chandler
Imagevia Flickr/ tom chandler

Acknowledge your feelings:

Like I said, secondary infertility can feel very isolating and, with that, feelings come up and you're not sure if they're valid or totally rational. I believe all feelings — good and bad — are valid, and it's important to acknowledge them and accept them.  Brandee, who blogs at Chill Mama Chill, adds, “Every day brings new information, new feelings, new hopes, new sadness. Feel them, and then allow yourself to let them go. Focus on today, focus on getting to tomorrow.


Image credit: adapted from Flickr/infowidget
Imagevia Flickr/infowidget

Find a support group:

Whether it be a group of friends who have struggled or are struggling through secondary infertility or a community group for support, finding others who you can openly talk to – who will understand more what you're going through – can make a world of difference in your spirit. 


Image credit: adapted from Flickr/ kokopinto
Imagevia Flickr/ kokopinto

Work on it as a couple:

If you're in a relationship, and you're working through secondary infertility, it can take a real toll on your relationship. It's can be really beneficial to go to counseling as a couple to make sure you're communicating all the conflicting and strange feelings that can come into a relationship when you're facing infertility.


Image credit: adapted from Flickr/ techfun
Image via Flickr/ techfun

Live in the now:

There is a lot that goes on with infertility and not being able to control family planning and timing can take you out of the now and make you focus too much on the “what-if's” and “what-if-not's”. Brandee's advice when it comes to living in the now is to “try not to focus on the way this is changing your life plan. Nothing in life is certain, and this is something you really cannot control. So live in the now. Feel but don't wallow. Be cautiously optimistic. Face reality. Support your partner and above all else, go to therapy if you need to. I have.

If you have a friend or family member who is going through secondary infertility, having your support can go along way for their struggles. It's important that if you offer your ear and/or support, that you really mean it. Don't say you understand if you don't, and know that we don't expect you to understand. If you're not familiar with secondary infertility, Brandee wants you to know this:

“We're angry, and that doesn't mean we're angry at you but we are jealous and we're sorry if that makes you feel bad. We don't mean to take it out on you, only you cannot understand how this feels. What you can say is ‘that must be so very hard' or ‘I'm so sorry things are so difficult for you right now' or even, ‘I honestly don't know what to say in this situation so I just want you to know I love you.' Say ‘I'm here if you need to vent' and MEAN IT. That means letting your friend say ALL sorts of angry crazy things through sobbing breath and not judging them. That means realizing that they aren't being dramatic or insane, they are just overwhelmed with emotions they don't understand. Don't try to compare it to anything, just be there to hear about how much it sucks, and nod in agreement. This is a very lonely time.” 

 :: What are some tips you have on how to survive secondary infertility? ::

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6 Tips for Surviving Secondary Infertility

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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