After my first successful pregnancy I thought there would be nothing to the second time around. Boy was I wrong! Did you know that it’s possible to have one child and then experience difficulties the second time around?
Secondary infertility apparently isn’t uncommon and it’s exactly what happened to me. There are a variety of reasons why. Maternal age, sperm health, structural issues with the uterus and environmental factors can all play a role. The frustration comes with the fact that the body has conceived successfully before and it’s always a mystery for doctors to uncover what has happened and what has changed.
For me, it was a number of little things to do with my fertility health as well as one significant male factor.
I will never forget that day at the fertility clinic when I decided to peek at my husband’s DNA fragmentation test. It was there right on top of our chart. There I was waiting for our doctor to arrive and the information was sitting right in front of me (they really should hide that stuff from patients). The result of our new found answers wasn’t pretty.
My heart sank as I saw that tiny little box checked on our chart. It read “30% DNA fragmentation. This couple will need to proceed with IVF and ICSI.” I instantly panicked. I was alone and my worst fear had come true, we had secondary infertility.
The doctor came in and explained what I already knew was true. He referred my husband to an urologist and went through the possible explanations as to why his sperm fragmentation could be high. My mind was spinning in so many directions and I instantly wondered how our daughter was so easily conceived. The doctor explained that sometimes there is a large vein, the varicoceles which can impede the quality of sperm. It grows over time. I returned home defeated and immediately started googling for donor sperm.
For a few days I was in a funk. It was then that I decided, like his sperm, I could sink or swim. I made a conscious decision to concentrate on what I could control. I started to do things that empowered myself rather than surrender to my negative thoughts.
I bought my husband expensive vitamins, I hid his bike, we both cleaned up our diet and we saw the urologist. We decided to take three months for the news to sink in. We went on vacation and decided to focus our lives on what we are grateful for; each other and our beautiful daughter.
There were days where I needed to hold onto my husband to stop me from drowning in despair but there were more days I felt really good. Days where I could see the shoreline and had hope that we were doing everything we could to conceive.
With the help of IVF with ICSI, we did eventually conquer secondary infertility. The treatment worked and we were blessed with our amazing twins. I like to think that we gained more than just our babies; we also made positive changes in our lives and learned a lot about each other.
This is a battle that requires more than just medical intervention. Conquering secondary infertility took positive thinking, dedication and above all, faith in each other and ourselves.
Amira Posner is a fertility counsellor in Toronto, Ontario. She works with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. Amira facilitates the Mind-Body Fertility Group at Mt. Sinai Hospital.