If you’re having trouble conceiving baby number two, then read our helpful hints for some extra reassurance…
You just don’t get it… baby number one happened so quickly. Now you’re trying again and nothing’s happening. Your first is living proof of your fertility, so what’s the problem? “Not being able to conceive when you’ve had a previous pregnancy is called secondary infertility,” explains Diane Arnold from Infertility Network UK (www.infertilitynetworkuk.com). “You might be feeling like you don’t have the right to complain, as you have one child already, but everyone is entitled to keep trying,” says Diane.
“It’s thought that 5 per cent of the population is affected by secondary infertility, but if you’ve been pregnant before there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do it again,” says Diane.
“Nearly half the women I see who suspect secondary infertility actually don’t have a problem at all,” says fertility advisor Emma Cannon (www.emmacannon.co.uk). Expectations are really high after conceiving quickly the first time, so women often panic when it doesn’t happen as soon the second time around. “You can’t really label it as secondary infertility until you’ve been trying for a year and are having sex two or three times a week without seeing any results,” says Emma.
“You may have conceived your first child quickly, but if there’s a big gap between your first and second, your fertility levels may have dropped,” says Diane. Your egg quality declines after you turn 35 and your egg quantity goes down year by year, also you’re more at risk of getting fibroids, which can interfere with fertility.
“Lots of women are having babies later in life, so they’re in a rush to fit them all in,” says fertility expert Zita West (www.zitawest.com). “This can mean they’re not giving their bodies a full 18 months to recover from the first birth, which could be affecting things.”
“Another possible explanation is that before trying for the first baby, many parents have eaten healthily, watched their weight, not drank or smoked, but second time around complacency may have set in,” says Diane.
Then there’s the tiredness and stress of parenting your first, which may interfere, especially if it stops you having sex as regularly as you would before you and your partner had children.
“The previous birth could also play a part,” says Emma. If there are any problems with scarring or a womb infection after delivery or a c-section, this might make it more difficult for the egg to implant due to a tube blockage. “And if you’re still breastfeeding, the prolactin hormone interferes with ovulation and may also stop you conceiving,” says Zita. However, reducing feeding times, especially at night, may rectify this.
Polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, when a woman has small cysts in her ovaries and may not release eggs regularly, can also be a cause. “Sometimes it goes undetected in a first pregnancy and only causes problems when a woman tries again,” says Zita. One symptom of PCOS is weight gain and being overweight can aggravate other symptoms, which include an irregular menstrual cycle, acne and hair growth.
Unfortunately, there’s less support available for secondary infertility, as priority is given to childless couples. “After one to two years of trying for a second baby, without a pregnancy, a GP will normally agree to start testing for abnormalities,” says Diane. Couples will be tested to check the woman is ovulating properly and that the man’s sperm is normal. If you’re over 35 you may be tested sooner because the longer you wait the less chance you have of being successful.
If tests show you have a problem, you will need to look into the four main fertility treatment options. These are Clomid – tablets to stimulate your ovaries, IUI – when your partner’s best sperm is selected and placed in your uterus, IVF – injections to stimulate egg production, which are then collected and mixed with your partner’s sperm, and ICSI where a single sperm is injected into each egg collected.
Your treatment will differ depending on the reason for your infertility, but the majority of primary care trusts won’t fund treatment for couples that already have a child. Check out www.infertilitynetworkuk.com for info on what funding is available to you.
“Having a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet that doesn’t include smoking or drinking will give you the best chance of conceiving,” says Diane. “Regular intercourse will increase your chances too. Sperm can stay alive for four days in your Fallopian tubes, so if they’re ready and waiting for when the egg is released you’re increasing your chances.”
“Secondary infertility can be a stressful journey, so anything that can calm the mind, like acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation or yoga might be worth trying,” says Emma. “Yoga and acupuncture are good for helping the blood flow in the uterus, promoting fertility and yoga helps to regulate your brain, which controls hormones.”
Chatting to other women going through the same thing can help, too. Log on to Think Baby (www.thinkbaby.co.uk), and Fertility Friends (www.fertilityfriends.co.uk), which have friendly forums and info about trying to conceive.
“It only took me a month to conceive my first child Jacob, so when it didn’t happen so quickly the second time, I started to worry. I just couldn’t understand why it wasn’t happening, as Jacob being there showed that I was able to conceive. Although I felt completely blessed to have one baby, in some ways I wonder if it’s harder than primary infertility – I knew how fantastic being a mum was and was terrified I’d never get the opportunity again. People kept saying to me, ‘At least you’ve got Jacob,’ and although they were right, and I was so grateful for him, I couldn’t settle with just one, despite feeling guilty for complaining.
After seven months of trying without any luck, I started to get concerned and went to see my GP. I’d noticed my periods had become a bit erratic when they were normally very regular and after a series of tests he diagnosed me with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and referred me to a consultant for further tests. After checking my Fallopian tubes were clear, they put me on the fertility drug Clomid, which stimulated my ovaries, and metformin, which helped with the side effects of PCOS. Two months later I was pregnant. The doctors thought I could have developed PCOS after my first pregnancy, but because I went on the pill after having Jacob I wasn’t able to tell if my periods were irregular or not until I came off it and decided to try for another baby. Theo arrived nearly two years after I first started trying for him. My advice to other couples is to never give up, as he’s proof that it’s worth every ounce of effort and patience you put in.”
Nicola Spiteri, 34, from Cardiff, mum to Jacob, 4, and Theo, 1.
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