Silently Suffering

August 18, 2008

When a woman is unable to conceive, the sympathy for her situation is without a doubt. It is heartbreaking to not be able to conceive and carry a baby, especially when you really want to be a parent. The weeks, months and sometimes years of treatments and hopes being hung by a thread are wearing and challenging at best. For many, adoption or surrogacy is the final answer to having a family.

Secondary Infertility

There is another group who suffer infertility, but it is in a very different way and sadly, they are not understood as well as those suffering with primary infertility. Secondary infertility is infertility which happens after there has been a successful pregnancy and birth, but the couple is unable to conceive again. This type of infertility can be caused by any of the things which cause primary infertility - the difference being the emotional implications and silent pain a couple goes through when they already have one child and can't have another. Even though a couple has a child, they can experience secondary infertility as the loss of a child, a lost pregnancy or the loss of childbearing.

More Common Than Primary Infertility

Secondary infertility has a higher incidence than primary infertility, but couples are less inclined to seek help if they already have a child. The surprise and confusion of not conceiving after what may have been a very easy event the first time can catch them entirely off guard - it just doesn't make sense to them that they can't have another baby. Physicians can downplay the situation and encourage a couple to keep trying, even though there is definitely a problem. Couples in this type of situation end up blaming themselves for the problem and if they've waiting too long and infertility treatments don't work, they are often regretful that they weren't more proactive in their approach when they first had problems.

The Pain and Grief

Couples who experience secondary infertility often feel a compilation of negative emotions ranging from grief and anger to isolation and guilt - with everything in the middle. Such couples, unless they seek specific help, tend to receive less social support from others since they already have a child. As such, their infertility is not acknowledged and their pain becomes invisible since there does not appear to be any concrete loss in the family.

Education Is Important

It is important for couples in this situation to educate their friends and families about the common feelings associated with this condition. Helping someone understand that the reason the baby shower invite was declined was due to grief and pain rather than snubbing a friend or family member, can help those outside the situation appreciate their position and be supportive rather than condemnatory.

Seek Help

Professional help and assistance from support groups are important components in dealing with the pain and difficulty of secondary infertility. Resolving the pain and gaining the personal power to move forward, either with fertility treatments or any other decision, leads a couple to strength and a reclaiming of their lives.

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