How to #StartAsking for Support: The Journey of Secondary Infertility


This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24-30, 2016) and the theme this year is “#StartAsking.” One of the goals of the #StartAsking campaign is to raise awareness, reduce the stigma and encourage people struggling to get the support they need. 

While infertility itself is seldom discussed at dinner parties, secondary infertility is even more of a hush hush subject. Sharing your experience with secondary infertility can help invite those who love you to advocate for you and support your family during this challenging time. 

What is Secondary Infertility? 

You have a child, or maybe two or three. You want to grow your family but it's been 6 months or 12 and still nothing. Or you've gotten pregnant but have miscarried. Again, perhaps. 

You discover on your own through your late night dates with google what you've got—secondary infertility. No one's said it but that's what you've got. According to Resolve, The National Infertility Association, secondary infertility:

is the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children. The birth of the first child does not involve any assisted reproductive technologies or fertility medications. 

Why hasn’t anyone mentioned it, you want to know? You wonder why your doctor shrugged you off and told you to keep trying. Are they ignorant? Optimistic? Lazy? What are they waiting for!? 

There are so many complicated aspects to secondary infertility and coping with those who love you but who just don't get it. But the only way for them to know how hard it is and how lonely it is, is if we #StartAsking them to take a peek inside your world, to pay attention to your struggle, and understand what it’s like to experience secondary infertility. 

Consider sharing this list with them as a way to help them understand what you’re going through. Tell them the number of the struggle listed below that's hardest for you today. Add your own. Let them in. Let them help you! 

Common Struggles of Secondary Infertility 

  1. You’re depressed and overwhelmed that you might not have another baby. 
  2. You're mourning a loss. The loss of a baby. The loss of your dreams. Your life isn't going as planned and you have no control. You feel helpless.
  3. Your relationship is strained— it can be difficult to get on the same page about treatments and to connect on a deeper level outside of your timed TTC (trying to conceive) "appointments". 
  4. The judgement— You feel judged in online communities and sometimes in the real world too because you have a child already and others don't. You wish you could tell them— there's enough sorrow to go around, folks! 
  5. The appointments! Who has time for all the appointments (the other kinds!)? Your RE, OB, the HSG, the routine ultrasounds. Let's not forget your acupuncturist! All the work you need to miss or childcare you need to arrange. It's a LOT. 
  6. You struggle with envy as those around you, unintentionally or not, become pregnant.
  7. Anniversaries hurt- your due date, when you had your (first/second/third) miscarriage, the holidays that coincide with those now infamous dates that are forever marred. 
  8. The well meaning but unintended hurtful things your friends and family say in an effort to comfort you.
  9. Your child(ren). Yes- so lucky to have that source of light. but dealing with the emotional weight of repeat losses, the TWW (two week wait), negative tests... it's intense. If you'd like some suggestions on maintaining your bond with your child through this dark stage, you might find this article helpful.
  10. Your physical pain. The hormonal impact of infertility drugs- the anxiety, mood swings, weight gain. Or the nausea that comes with each hopeful pregnancy. 

If you feeling inspired to #StartASking for support, consider sharing this article with someone you love who can help you through your journey.

If you’re struggling with primary or secondary infertility and think you could benefit from the support of a trained psychotherapist, reach out! In San Diego, call Rachel Rabinor, LCSW for a free 30 minute in-person consultation. She maintains a private practice in the Banker’s Hill neighborhood where she specializes in Maternal Mental Health including infertility and loss. Resolve is a great resource for those outside of San Diego.