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Secondary Infertility - A Big Problem, Often Not Shared

Tracey Sainsbury with Charlie
Tracey Sainsbury with Charlie

Our Senior Fertility Counsellor, Tracey Sainsbury, talks to Anya Sizer from the Fertility Network about the difficulties of dealing with Secondary Infertility.

It can be confusing for many women who have been pregnant before who haven’t got a child, either because of pregnancy loss or ending a pregnancy, to be diagnosed with Secondary Infertility. Many of us think of Secondary Infertility just being relevant if you have a child and want another one. But Secondary infertility refers to anyone hoping to conceive, who has conceived in the past, also regardless of whether a previous pregnancy was achieved with the help of assisted conception treatment or not.

Why does it matter? We recognise that the desire to have a child is very primal, an innate drive to become a parent. When we are trying to conceive as people who have not experienced a previous pregnancy we can routinely feel as if we’re on an emotional rollercoaster. High as a kite, it’s going to work and as low as you can go with the thought of it not working.

Anyone trying to conceive with assistance is encouraged to embrace that rollercoaster as a validating sign of how much they want to be parents and use a variety of stress management strategies to manage the highs and lows, rather than try to ‘stay relaxed’ or ‘not be stressed’.

For anyone who has experienced a previous pregnancy that rollercoaster often has an added dimension; if we are parents already, a sense of we should be grateful for what we have, and not spending time, money too, on trying again. Our friends and family can feel this way too, which is often unhelpful.  Anya Sizer, Fertility Network UK, who regularly supports patients at the London Women’s Clinic, shared, “Friends and family failed to understand why I couldn’t just be grateful to have one child. It’s easy to overlook how important and impactful secondary infertility can be, but the pain was real, and many afternoons you’d find me in floods of tears and just wanting desperately to be able to conceive again”

 An added expectation that we ‘should’ be relaxed as we already have a child or children, without the recognition that we don’t just want another child for ourselves, we want a sibling for our children too.  

It we don’t have children, but have experienced a previous pregnancy, however it ended we can often be harder on ourselves; ‘I shouldn’t get my hopes up’, ‘I am tempting fate by being positive’, both suggesting some how our thoughts can promote a pregnancy loss or prevent a conception occurring. Life would be much easier if our thoughts did absolutely control our pregnancy hopes; we wouldn’t need contraception for when we’re not trying to conceive. If we proactively ended a pregnancy, which is a step many people take for many different reasons when it feels at least 51% the right thing to do, we can reflect overly harshly on our decisions made, sometimes wondering if our difficulties conceiving now are deserved.

 “Going through secondary infertility for several years was incredibly difficult. I felt like my family wasn’t complete and that there was an unshakeable daily sadness looming over me that I just couldn’t shake.” Anya Sizer - Fertility Network UK

Anya went on to have a second child with the help of IVF and a third thanks to adoption. But it’s not always such a happy ending; here at the London Women’s Clinic we offer a range of treatments to support people who are trying to conceive whether experiencing primary or secondary infertility.

As our fertility routinely declines with age we may decide to opt for more intensive treatment options such as IVF with the addition of genetic screening, PGS or PGD to screen embryos ahead of transfer to ensure they are chromosomally normal.

Donor conception, conceiving with donated eggs, sperm or both, also provides an option for many people trying to conceive. The age and screening of the donors promoting a positive outcome, with often a higher chance of success.

If you are experiencing Secondary Infertility, the thing you’ll want to know is that here, we understand how stressful and difficult it can be. We provide support via our support groups, coaching and counselling from your initial consultation; whilst you explore options and embrace decisions moving forwards. Your consultation and tests providing clarity around what treatment to proceed with or deciding to embrace the family you have.

Your first step towards clarity is booking a Comprehensive Fertility MOT, a simple blood test and semen analysis are included for heterosexual couples, just the blood test for our single ladies and lesbian couples; these are taken a week or so ahead of your initial consultation.  Your consultation includes a pelvic ultrasound scan, the results shared the same day. Your specialist fertility consultant provides a clear overview of your fertility and the different treatment pathways based on your own individual results. 

You can book an appointment or find out more by contacting us today on 0207 563 4309.

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