Women and men don't like to talk about infertility because they feel ashamed as if they're somehow lesser women and men because they're having problems conceiving—which obviously isn't the case. We know that rationally, but self-doubt creeps in and we ladies are really good at beating ourselves up over things.
While infertility is still a topic most people only share with close friends or family, people are at least talking about it finally. Most of us know someone who has had fertility issues, and has had to go through IVF to get pregnant (I personally know many stories with happy endings!). But fewer people talk about secondary infertility, which is infertility after you've already had a child. Partly because they can't wrap their heads around the problem since they were able to have a baby in the past; partly because they fear it seems just plain whiney, when they already have a child or children and other people are struggling to have just one.
Dealing with it quietly can be difficult as people make comments like, "When is little Bobby going to be a big brother?," or "I thought you wanted a big family!" But if you are experiencing secondary infertility, know you're not alone. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, even though people may not be talking about it, 11 percent of American couples, which is about 4 million families, experienced secondary infertility in 2010 (up from 3.3 million couples in 2006). So it is a common problem, and you probably know someone who's struggling with it right now.
About 35 percent of those with secondary infertility experience fertility problems because of the woman, 35 percent because of the man, 20 percent because of both, and 10 percent is unexplained infertility. For women, irregular menstrual periods or ovulation and weight changes can complicate conception. Conditions such as endometriosis can worsen over time and interfere with fertility, while cesarean sections and other pelvic surgeries can also lead to scar tissue or blocked fallopian tubes, both of which can hurt fertility. For men, low sperm count or sperm mutations are usually the culprit.
But it's not all bad news—there are ways to help improve your chances of getting pregnant again before turning to fertility treatments. Timing is everything! The most fertile window is during the six days before you ovulate. Over-the-counter ovulation kits are available at most drug stores to help you figure out the right time for you. During that period, have sex every day or at least every other day (and remember to have fun—it's not just a homework assignment!). If you're using a lubricant, read the packaging. Choose cellulose-based lubricants over water-based ones that tend to decrease sperm mobility and survival. Also limit coffee and other caffeine consumption to a cup or two a day and avoid recreational drugs, alcohol and tobacco, while trying to conceive.
If you're under 35, after a year of unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant see a specialist. If you're over 35, give it six months, and then get checked out because often times the things that cause infertility can get worse with age if untreated. If you do have a medical problem, don't feel defeated. Then you can address it and formulate a plan, and you'll feel much more empowered.
For more on secondary infertility, read this.
TELL US: Have you overcome any infertility issues? Do you have any tips for women going through the same?
Image of mom with toddler courtesy of Shutterstock.