When becoming pregnant isn’t easy

Once you have decided that you are ready to embark on the journey into parenthood, often you expect that it’s all going to magically happen!  After all, for many of us, so much effort has been put into ensuring that you don’t fall pregnant  that it is expected this should be a straight forward, natural step.

When you’re growing up, you never imagine having any difficulty in The Downstairs Department… You assume that, as and when you and your partner decide the time has come for kids, you’ll just dispense with the usual precautions and let nature take its course.  But nature’s course can be more circuitous than expected. Wrong turns, dead ends and breakdowns can all crop up along the way

The experience of trying to get pregnant can be all-consuming.  If you have been trying to fall pregnant, but unsuccessfully, it is natural to feel frustrated and disappointed when you realise that you have not conceived at each cycle and it’s not happening.

You may also, quite understandably, feel angry, jealous or resentful of others around you – particularly towards those who seem to be able to become pregnant more quickly, effortlessly or accidentally.

It all just seemed so unfair.  We were desperate to have a baby and had been trying for months and months, and when someone announces that they are pregnant… well, sure you are happy for them, but another part of your heart just sinks, as you try and hold it together and be happy for them.

It is also common to feel more tired, and often there can be added pressure on your relationship.  To top it all off, people may tell you to ‘just relax’, which can make you feel that they don’t understand and can leave you feeling more isolated.

If you are in this situation, there are a few things that may be useful to keep in mind:

  • Falling pregnant can take time Medically, you are not considered to have fertility problems until you have been trying to fall pregnant for twelve months.  If you are over 30, some suggest to allow at least six months before seeking assistance, but you may want to seek advice sooner if you are getting to the latter years of your thirties or early forties.
  • You are not aloneInfertility affects 10-15% of all couples of reproductive age, with the likelihood increasing in cases where the women is over 35, where the incidence of infertility increases to one in six.
  • Be proactive Talk to your doctor.  Order tests to check if there is an issue with you or your partner sooner than later, particularly if you are over 35.
  • There are now many options Discuss fertility options.  It may be helpful to agree with your practitioner that, if you have not fallen pregnant by a certain time point, you will reconsider your options for fertility treatment.  There are a range of different levels and types of treatment to be considered with your health professional, ranging from tablets taken over a short time period to increase ovulation through to more intensive interventions like Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).

Coping with secondary infertility

If you fell pregnant with your first baby quickly, it can be confusing, frustrating and heartbreaking when it’s just not happening the second time around. In fact, many parents describe feeling shocked.

But we already have a baby? Why can’t we have another one?

While many of the emotions and challenges are similar to those experienced by hopeful parents trying to conceive their first baby, secondary infertility comes with unique grief and pain.

It’s so hard knowing I can get pregnant without having a reason why it’s not happening again. 

If you had a clear idea of what you wanted your family to look like, for example having two children close together, it can be painful as the months or years pass by and the age-gap gets larger. And, if your child is longing for a sibling, this can be particularly hard to cope with.

It’s a rollercoaster each month as your baby gets bigger and bigger.

But along with grief and yearning for another baby, there can also be strong feelings of guilt. These feelings are often compounded by comments from well-meaning friends and relatives such as, “You’re lucky you have a child! So many couples can’t have any children.”

The guilt can leave many parents suffering in silence, unable to talk those with primary infertility and finding it painful being around those who’ve been able to “complete” their families.

I felt so alone and guilty for struggling with it.

I was a member of a secret club I didn’t want to be a part of.

It’s important to take care of yourself and try to stay connected to your partner and your little ones as you navigate this path.

  • Be proactive and speak to your doctor about your options.
  • Allow yourself to feel whatever you’re feeling, and remember that deep sadness and grief is valid. Try to view your emotions as temporary states that will come and go: “This is how I’m feeling right now.” “Today I’m feeling angry and heartbroken.” It’s possible to feel both gratitude that you have a child and grief and sadness around wanting another baby when it’s simply not happening. 
  • Remember it’s OK not to put yourself in situations that trigger your pain. This may mean sending a gift instead of going to a baby shower, or waiting to visit a new friend’s second or third baby until you’re feeling up to it. It’s OK to put your needs and feelings first.
  • Find people you can confide in: Connect with others going through the same journey via Facebook groups or online forums. Many Trying to Conceive (TTC) forums have particular sub-groups for those going through secondary infertility. You’re not alone – even if it might feel that way sometimes. 
  • Don’t be afraid to seek professional help if your feelings are overwhelming: There are various support services available for people experiencing infertility, including couples counselling if its taking its toll on your relationship. You can find out more here.