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The second time around – Dealing with Secondary Infertility

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Confirming a secondary infertility diagnosis or feeling comfortable accepting an identity, can be as settling as it can be distressing. After weeks, months, sometimes years of confusion and uncertainty, to finally have confirmation of the box you belong in, can often be a huge relief.

You can seek the correct advice and treatment, you don’t have to worry about conditions you worried you might have and the confirmation brings to an end a horrid chapter when you’ve feared the unknown and felt gripped by uncertainty.

Realising I had secondary infertility and that my situation actually had a name, did exactly all of that for me. All I had known for all those years was that I wanted another baby. I searched Amazon for books about ‘struggling for a second child’ and ‘trying to extend the family’. I didn’t know the term to type into Google that might have pointed me in the right direction to find useful, specific information and secondary infertility support.

Dealing with secondary infertility

I was 38, happily married with a four year old son, boss of a marketing consultancy, been driven by my career all my life and I was desperate to provide a sibling. To others, I was seemingly happy, I had it all. My son was, and still is, the light of my life and after three years, having eventually conceived him with the help of Clomid, he had always been my dream come true. And yet, despite 15 months on Clomid and then three unsuccessful rounds of IVF, the heartache I carried at failing to conceive a second time was immense. It was often overwhelming.

Was I abnormal? Was it my fault? Was there something about me, my lifestyle, my habits, tastes, beliefs that meant I couldn’t conceive a second time? The truth is I’ll never know why. My secondary infertility, as with the first time, was unexplained. Nobody could tell me what it was about me that meant we were in this situation.

And yet, the confirmation that I wasn’t alone, that it wasn’t just me and that loads of other parents were struggling to provide a sibling too, so much so they’d given the condition a name, was actually hugely liberating! I might not have answers but I wasn’t abnormal and it wasn’t my fault. Whilst we might all be in the same boat, we secondary infertility sufferers are all different!

Different backgrounds, different lifestyles and so many different circumstances, yet the one thing we all have in common is that we are all blessed with a family but have a desire for another child.

The secondary infertility definition is commonly understood to be like my situation, where the couple have a child together, but for some reason or another can’t seem to conceive another child together.

However there are numerous profiles of couples struggling with fertility that I would strongly suggest should also fall into the ‘box’, ‘pigeon hole’, identity whatever you want to call it, that may not consider themselves as such.

For example, when a couple is struggling to conceive a second child, they are not eligible for funding for free fertility treatment as primary fertility sufferers are, because they have proved they can conceive successfully. This is irrespective of whether they required fertility treatment the first time round or not, even if they didn’t receive financial support the first time, they are still not eligible when struggling with secondary infertility on the NHS.

And yet, when either one or both, has a child with a previous partner, they too are not deemed eligible for funding for fertility treatment because they have also proved one or both can conceive successfully, even though this wasn’t together.

For some couples, those children from the previous relationship sometimes don’t even feature in the lives of their parents any more as contact is lost or few and far between for whatever reason. In other instances, those children are embraced by their Step Parents, loved and brought up as their own. In each case the couple understandably want to have a baby together, create their own little family but are seemingly denied the support or the recognition of having secondary infertility when I believe their circumstances show otherwise.

Another, often overlooked, profile is the couple that have more than one child. The most frequent retort when you have a child but say you are desperate for another is “Well count yourself lucky, at least you have little Johnny.”

There is very little understanding. When you already have 3 or 4 children and still feel desperate for more and dare to admit you feel sad that you can’t conceive again, the understanding from those around is pretty non-existent.

Irrespective of how many children you are blessed with, (and I’m sure you understand that you are indeed blessed if you are now struggling) you are entitled to feel the need or to want more and you deserve as much support as anyone else. You may be trying to conceive for your fifth baby but if you are struggling and seeking fertility treatment I would also include you in the secondary infertility statistics.

Women are having babies later, indeed putting off trying for children until later in life and more and more glass ceilings are getting shattered as girls are given more opportunities to excel in the workplace. At 38 I had been Marketing Director for a large PLC, ran my own marketing consultancy and felt I’d achieved many goals of the girl with big dreams, until I realised that all of that might have been at the ultimate expense of my actual biggest dream of being a Mummy to a large family. Here I was on the edge of the precipice at the big drop in egg quality and all that was now threatened. “You’ve left it too late” said some, “that’s why you can’t have more kids!”

In fact they were wrong. Firstly, even at 38, I always had bumper egg production and they were of the most excellent quality, but more importantly, secondary infertility can strike couples of any age. If a couple conceived a child in their late teens or early twenties, there is still every possibility that if they try for another, certain circumstances may dictate that they may not be as lucky second time round, whatever their age. Saying “But we’re still young!” may give them hope, but they should not put off seeking investigations or indeed fertility advice, no matter how young they think they are if they have been trying unsuccessfully for a sustained period.

The other area to consider when profiling secondary infertility sufferers is the World Health Organisation’s broad definition, which includes “all women unable to carry a pregnancy to live birth after a previous pregnancy”. They therefore include those women who have had repeat miscarriages, again a group who may be overlooked as to needing support through a secondary infertility support group.

And I guess whilst medically speaking, the circumstances are slightly different, I would also include some same sex couples in the category of Secondary Infertility where others may not. Why not? If either partner has naturally conceived in a previous relationship, or indeed if the couple have conceived through a donor or surrogate and they already have a family together, the fact that they may want to extend that family, to me, means they will still feel the same pain, longing, guilt and isolation of any other couple wanting another child.

We all like to feel part of something, to share love or interests with others and to have friends around us. Secondary Infertility is such a lonely world; one where you feel you can’t talk about your desires, your pain and your guilt, even to those closest to you. Thankfully more and more people are talking about the situation and so more people are recognising themselves and feeling they not only have an identity and a diagnosis, but also a friend.

It’s important that we all recognise that Secondary Infertility is still Infertility. It’s also important that we recognise that the profile of someone struggling with secondary infertility is not necessarily Mrs Married (to the same man), 40+ with a high flying banking career, high heels and shrivelled ovaries! Nor does she just have one child, just as she’s not necessarily straight, even married or most importantly seeking fertility treatment.

Not all those couples struggling to conceive a second child will contact a fertility clinic, seek advice or indeed access treatment. Their story will never be recorded and they more than most are probably oblivious to relevant support or information.

Figures on Secondary Infertility are scarce on the ground and any that do exist can only be wild guesses. Most fertility clinics don’t note if the cause of infertility is primary or secondary and whilst they may enquire as to the family background, this information is not recorded on any database.

Figures provided by fertility clinics will clearly be wide of the mark from figures generated by survey studies of the general population.

The pain at being unable to conceive is immense, it’s different but still unbearable if you already have one, two or many more children already. Whatever the couple’s circumstance or profile, wouldn’t it be great if we could hold back any judgement and instead extend support and understanding to anyone struggling to conceive?

Helen has struggled with Secondary Infertility for three years and runs the secondary infertility blog secondaryinfertilitymatters.com

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Fertility 360

Do This ONE Thing to Improve Your Fertility Immediately

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Do This ONE Thing to Improve Your Fertility Immediately

Why is Earth the only planet in our solar system that supports life forms?

Quite simply…water.  No other planet has it.

Drinking water is essential for optimal health.  And you probably think you get plenty of fluids every day.

Yet, up to 75 percent of Americans may be in a chronic state of dehydration, according to research.

Many people understand the importance of drinking enough water but they don’t overcome the perceived inconvenience to make it part of their routine.

The problem is that allowing yourself to become dehydrated causes more inconvenience because it can be a significant contributing factor to your fertility issues.  Something as simple as drinking enough water can be the turning point for you.

Staying hydrated is critical when trying to get pregnant.  You can survive weeks without food. But as little as a few hours without water.  For example, a child left in a hot car or an athlete exercising hard in hot weather can dehydrate, overheat and die in a period of a few hours.

50-70% of your body weight is water.  Your blood is 85% water, your muscles 80%, your brain 75% and even your bones are 25% water, which indicates how important water is for your health.

Water keeps all of your organs and cells functioning properly including the reproductive cells (egg, sperm) and reproductive organs (brain, ovaries, uterus, testes, thyroid).  It also naturally flushes out toxins in the body.

For men, semen production and semen volume can be reduced by not drinking enough water.   If semen is thicker due to dehydration, sperm may have trouble swimming.

For the fetus, staying hydrated is critical for fetal development.  Water helps carry nutrients to the placenta and is an important part of all aspects of development from the time of fertilization. Without water, a developing baby cannot survive, increasing the risk of miscarriage.

For women, dehydration can affect…

  • …which leads to dehydration interfering with or preventing ovulation
  • The cervical mucus, which is important in transporting the sperm to the fallopian tubes for egg fertilization.  Having little to no cervical mucus can be an indication that you’re dehydrated. You should see 2-3 days of egg white, stretchy cervical mucus around ovulation.  Without enough water, the cervical mucus that balances vaginal pH also becomes too acidic, harming the sperm.
  • Implantation –  Water is necessary for cell division and metabolism. The cells of the uterine wall must be healthy for the embryo to implant.

 

How much water to drink?

Because people are busy throughout the day, using thirst as a guide is unreliable.

A general rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces of water.

But more accurately, use your urine as a guide.

The color should be pale yellow like lemonade.  If it is a deep, dark yellow then you are probably not drinking enough water.  If it is colorless, you are drinking too much water which can cause salts & other electrolytes in your body to become too diluted.

A healthy person urinates on average about 7-8 times a day.  If you haven’t urinated in many hours, that’s an indication that you’re not drinking enough.  Time your water intake so that needing to go to the bathroom doesn’t cause you to wake up at night.

Make sure you start your day with a large glass of water to rehydrate.  You breathe out a small amount of water every time you exhale as you’re sleeping.  If you sweat at night, you’re also losing water.

Water bottles

Storing your water in the appropriate water containers is important.  Glass and stainless steel water containers are best.

DO NOT USE plastic bottles!  Even if they’re BPA-free.

BPA (bisphenol-A) mimics estrogen, and therefore can have estrogenic effects in the body causing infertility including low sperm quality.  BPA increases aneuploidy, a defect consisting of abnormal loss or gain of chromosomes, which could lead to miscarriages or disorders such as Down Syndrome.

Plastics, including BPA-free materials, leach chemicals that act like estrogen in our bodies.  Conditions that are known to release these harmful chemicals are heat, putting them in a microwave or dishwasher, or leaving a plastic water bottle in a hot car.  Microwaving the containers or placing hot liquids or food into them releases BPA 55 times more rapidly! But even normal contact with food or water was enough for these chemicals to leach into the food and the water because they are unstable.  Some of the chemicals that are in the BPA-free plastics actually have been found to have greater estrogenic activity than BPA itself.

Water quality

Many people rely on drinking bottled water regularly.  The problem is that you don’t know how long they’ve been in the plastic bottle and what conditions they have been stored in.

Instead, purify your tap water using the best water filtration system you can afford, preferably one with reverse osmosis (RO).

Unfortunately, an effective water filtration system also removes beneficial minerals (magnesium, calcium, iron, manganese).  Because RO water doesn’t have enough minerals, when it is consumed, it also leaches minerals from the body and your food if you cook with RO water. It’s because water wants to bind to everything, and it will take the minerals where it can — like from your body or your food.  This means that the minerals in food and vitamins are being urinated away.

Less minerals consumed plus more minerals being excreted equals serious negative side effects and big health problems, including fertility issues.

A simple solution is to add trace minerals to filtered water.

Here are some easy tips to ensure you’re drinking enough water

  • Have a bottle with you constantly and make it a habit to take a sip whenever you have down time.
  • Use an app to track your water intake.>
  • Set recurring water break reminders on your phone.
  • Buy a bottle with pre-marked timed intervals. You can also make your own stickers to add to your favorite clear bottle.  All you have to do is come up with your own timed drinking goals and write the times on the bottle.

Optimal fertility starts with the basics – water being the most critical ingredient to life.  Make it a daily habit to drink enough for your reproductive needs.

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Lifestyle

Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations

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Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations

Hi future mama,

We are coming up on the Thanksgiving holiday in the U.S. and though many of you are tuning in from all over the world and may not be celebrating this holiday; it’s still a good time to take stock of the things we are thankful for.

Unfortunately it’s our innate human survival response to focus on what’s going wrong versus what’s going right. The fight-or-flight response in our brains want to make sure we stay alive and so it is on heightened alert when we worry about the magical, “what if?”

What if it’s too late?
What if there’s something wrong with me?
What if we don’t have enough money?
What if I can’t heal my …. ?
What if IVF doesn’t work?
What if I can’t “figure it out?”

If you’ve been on this journey for any length of time, I’m sure you’re not a stranger to some of these thoughts. It sucks because they’re involuntary. Obviously we don’t WANT to think them, but we do.

Oddly enough if we worry it feels like we are doing something active; but of course from a Law of Attraction perspective, worrying only brings a match to more worrying. It’s so easy to go down the rabbit hole of worry and project our deepest fears into a future that hasn’t happened yet.

We aren’t really taught to focus on things going right. It feels irresponsible to the fight-or-flight part of the brain because- what if something falls through the cracks and we miss our chance? Or we just plain forget that there are things in our lives that ARE going right, because we are so consumed with the fear of ‘what if’.

The problem is that we can be looped in a cycle of fear and it can be really hard to pull yourself out of it. The more we try to force our way out of the loop, the more forcing it brings- and we can’t get out of it.

What does this mean for our bodies from a physiological perspective?

Thanks to the Law of Psychophysical Response, every positive thought creates a positive physical/chemical reaction in the body, and every negative thought creates a negative physical/chemical response in the body. So every time we replay a fear or past trauma, the body can’t tell if the trauma is happening in real time or is just being replayed mentally so the body responds as if it’s happening now. This keeps our fight or flight switch on because the brain perceives danger, and if the switch is on, the uterus is off. Not only is it not good for your mental state to keep replaying these fears and traumas, but it’s literally affecting your body too. This is not for you to go crazy being fearful that every thought you think is messing up your chances, it’s to bring awareness to your thoughts- awareness that despite what it feels like there is choice in what you think and what you become a match to. So just as with every negative thought, there’s a negative reaction in the body; so too with every positive thought there’s a positive reaction in the body. So your power is in choosing thoughts that feel better and being compassionate with your brain as it is rewired to think this way. It’s going to take time for it to be consistent, and we can’t go from gloom and doom to euphoria because we aren’t an energetic match to that.

A good way to begin to turn the tide and become more of a vibrational match to the energy and outcome you want is to establish some sort of gratitude practice.

Now let me be clear– being grateful for what IS going right now, is by no means a resignation that this is your life forever, that you don’t get to have your dream and you’re just going to have to deal with the scraps you feel life has given you.

On the contrary!

We cannot be in gratitude and fear at the same time. The energetic vibrations are too far apart. So being in gratitude at least momentarily lets us spend some time away from fear and feeling more peaceful.

Many of us think, “I’ll be so grateful when I get pregnant.” It sounds like a positive thought on the surface, but remember the universe doesn’t care what you’re saying– it’s hearing the energy that you’re putting out. So how that statement actually reads energetically is, “I’m not okay and I can’t be grateful until I’m pregnant, and I’m not pregnant so I can’t be grateful.”

When we are truly in the energy of gratitude for what is going right, we become an energetic match to being more grateful for more things going right. And truly, more things will start to go right- hence more gratitude!

When we are so consumed with Mission Baby, it’s hard to feel like anything is going right, but SO much is! From the epic, to the mundane, we all have things in our every day lives to be grateful for like:

  • supportive spouse
  • still getting a cycle
  • have a place to live
  • ate today
  • supportive family
  • have a job
  • it was nice out today

It’s so important for us to direct energy and awareness to what is going right so that we literally become a match to receiving more of it. Focusing on what you DON’T have, brings more of a match to you not having it. Focus on what you DO have and watch things change.

So what kind of gratitude practice are we talking about here?

    1. A gratitude journal. Get a cool looking journal that speaks to you (mine is leather with a Celtic tree of life embossed on it). Have it somewhere where you’ll see it every day. Each day write three things you’re grateful for/ or that went right today. It’s okay to have the same things on the list for several days, but really dig deep to some of the little or forgotten reasons. We all have so many. Commit to doing it for at least a month (preferably three months). Daily attention to gratitude and acknowledging support from the universe makes you a match to receiving more of it.
    2. If your spouse/partner is open to it, have a peak & valley discussion every night over dinner of before you go to bed. The valley is where you let your brain vent the thing that upsets you, and then the peak is the high point of your day. What happened that made you feel good today. It’s okay to start with things like – it was nice outside today, someone gave me their seat on the subway, I found a parking spot right away, a stranger complimented me, I had a really good sandwich for lunch, etc. Sometimes we have to start here first. That’s okay. The important thing is that we remind our brains that there are things going right all around us. Sometimes it helps our accountability to do this with our partner. If they’re not open, find a friend who you can text your peak and valley to- and maybe they’ll join you.
    3. A mini gratitude meditation. This is much simpler than it sounds and there’s no wrong way to do it. For example, you may want to sit with your eyes closed burning some sage or listen to soothing music. Take a few deep breaths, put one hand on your heart and begin to visualise one thing you’re grateful for. Deep inhale as you think of the thing you’re grateful for, and exhale as you say in out loud. Say each thing three times. Then sit in the feeling of gratitude (versus thinking gratitude), thank whatever your higher power is, and you’re done. This is something that can be done every day and doesn’t take more than five minutes but can be instrumental in shifting your energy.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate it and even if it’s not that holiday where you are in the world, take some time to sit in gratitude for the abundance and blessings you do have. There are so many. It’s a necessary step to move forward. Lots of love!

A’ndrea is a Reiki Master and Holistic Fertility Specialist and more information can be found on her website fusionfertility.com

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Fertility 360

Rainbow Babies: Tips To Move Through The Joys, Fears And Tears Of Pregnancy After Loss

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Rainbow Babies

Congratulations! You’re pregnant! Everyone around you is excited except, perhaps, for you. Last time this happened and/or the time before that and/or the time before that, the pregnancy didn’t continue. You may have had a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a neonatal loss. You may have felt isolation, grief, anger.

In fact, you may have thought this pregnancy would resolve these feelings when, in fact, you’ve been noticing lately that they’re all still lurking in the background. To make matters worse, you may now be feeling petrified you’ll lose this baby too. Worry, fear and uncertainty are very commonly felt by pregnant people who’ve experienced a loss.

Here are some suggestions to help you move through the challenges and enjoy pregnancy again.

1) It was not your fault
Whatever happened last time, it was not your fault. Not all pregnancies are perfect. Not all births end up in live babies. You did your best. Shitty things happen. It was not your fault.

2) Choose the right health care provider
It’s normal to be emotionally vulnerable. It’s normal to feel anxiety. It’s normal to want a million extra appointments but then simultaneously feel like that high after your fourth ultrasound was too short-lived. It’s also normal to be happy.

Research suggests that pregnant people following a loss do better with care providers that respect their unique experiences. Most often, this can be found in a care provider that provides strong continuity. For some this is someone they’ve worked with in a previous pregnancy. Others prefer to start afresh. Good, consistent professional support that honours your individual experiences is not only important for your personal wellbeing but it also improves pregnancy outcomes.

3) Ask for what you need
After a loss, many people find the need for more personalised care to support them through their pregnancy and birth. If you think you need a more frequent schedule of visits for your own wellbeing, ask. If you want to know how to get reassurance in the middle of the night, ask. If you need them to start the appointment with a fetal heart rate check, ask. If you want an additional ultrasound for reassurance, ask. Take an active role in planning your pregnancy and birth. If you’re not finding your care providers responsive, ask to change to someone else. Research suggests that feeling a sense of control in your journey can help you enjoy your pregnancy again.

4) Build your community
After experiencing loss, it’s not uncommon to delay emotional involvement in a subsequent pregnancy and that’s okay. This is your pregnancy and your baby. You get to decide when you announce your pregnancy to the world. You get to decide how you feel about your baby. However, sometimes this valuable protective mechanism also deprives us of seeking necessary support. Many woman do not get adequate emotional and psychological support to deal with their feelings.

While you may be turning to your partner, he or she may also be processing the pregnancy differently, particularly at triggering times, for they are on their own journey of isolation, grief, anger. Bring those into your community who will be there for you when things are tough. Ask your care provider to connect you with someone who’s experienced loss. Consider seeing if there are any support groups in your area for folks who’ve had similar experiences to your own. Research suggests group support helps diminish feelings of isolation and allows for stronger relationships between partners moving forward.

5) Prepare for your rainbow baby
The vast majority of people who’ve experienced losses do go on to have healthy babies. We call them rainbow babies. For, they are the beautiful babies we welcome into the world after the storm that is loss. Just think: you’re pregnant with your rainbow baby! Find ways for you and your support people to celebrate milestones, even when you’re feeling fears to the contrary. Find ways to do the things that normalise, even if a bit of adaptation is necessary.

If you think you’d feel isolated attending a regular childbirth education class, sign up for a private one instead. Read positive books about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. Do the silly things you always imagined you’d do. Be determined to maintain hope: your rainbow baby is on the horizon!

If you want to find more support you can contact Rishma via her website www.rishmawalji.com

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