The Silent Struggle of Secondary Infertility

My husband and I always knew we would have kids. We were looking forward to having several. He comes from a family of four children and has always said that’s the magic number. I am an only child and wanted to make sure my children had siblings. When we found out we were expecting just a few short months after we were married, we were a little surprised but over the moon to be expecting our 1st child the same week as our 1st anniversary.

secondary infertility firstborn

We didn’t find out our baby’s gender ahead of time and were thrilled to meet our sweet baby girl. The first few weeks were tough. We were having a terrible time nursing, her days and nights were mixed up, I had a bit of a rough recovery, and we were all short on sleep. Before I knew it, my six week check-up was upon us, and I went in to meet with my doctor.

After going through the appointment she asked what our plans were for birth control. I mentioned we wanted to wait a little while before having another. We were in the middle of transition: My husband was starting his business in a couple months, which was going to mean me leaving my job and us making a move to a new town. I knew with all of that going on we probably wanted to wait a year or two before we tried for another.

I hadn’t really had time to research the options, so I asked what she thought. She said I basically had two options since I was breastfeeding attempting to breastfeed. I decided on Depo-Provera. I mean, a shot every three months, and no having to remember to take a pill in my sleep-deprived state…sign me up! She did mention that the shot takes away your cycle (once again, sounded like a plus to me!) and takes about six months for you to be able to conceive again after you go off of it.

I started the shots and had a bit of an adjustment period. I thought it would get better over time. But then I started having some weird side effects. After the 3rd shot I’d had enough. I discontinued using it.  Six months later my cycles were still a mess and I went to the doctor. She said the Depo-Provera was probably still in my system but should be almost done. She said if I was still having trouble to call her in a couple of months.

Fast forward six more months. My husband and I were longing to have another child.

Our daughter was almost two and we wanted her to have a sibling. I went back to the doctor as I was still having trouble. She did some bloodwork and couldn’t find anything to explain the symptoms I was having.

secondary infertility family pic

Over the course of the next eight months I went through ultrasounds, bloodwork, and other tests to try to determine the cause of my crazy cycles, low progesterone, and lack of ovulation. (I would later find out from another doctor that it can take a couple of years for the effects of Depo-Provera to leave your system.) Meanwhile, all of my friends who had children at the same time I had my daughter were on “the 2-year plan” and had already had their second child.

I was constantly being asked when we were going to have another. How do you answer that question? There were a lot of things I felt like saying. But instead I’d just smile and say, “Hopefully sometime soon.”

We were thisclose to starting fertility treatments when I finally confided in my sister-in-law and her husband (who’s a physician) about what we were going through. My brother-in-law told me that what I was going through was called Secondary Infertility and that it’s actually a common occurrence. Secondary Infertility is the inability to conceive after having 1 or more live births. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 11% of couples who have a child will go on to face Secondary Infertility. 

He mentioned that Natural Family Planning is helpful for some people, so we started reading The Art of Natural Family Planning. In the book they recommended another book, called Fertility, Cycles, and Nutrition. I started following the principles in both books, including taking a multi-vitamin supplement both books recommended. The NEXT month my cycle was regular length, had actually normalized, and shortly thereafter we found out we were expecting!!

secondary infertility announcement

We were overjoyed. After two long years of struggle and heartache we were finally going to have another child! We were in the middle of a move for a new job and I was feeling pretty good. Four days after we moved I went in for my first doctor’s appointment at nine weeks. The next day I took my mother-in-law home and was headed back to our new home to get settled in. Then I started spotting. The next day it got heavier and I started cramping. We were in a new town where we didn’t know anyone, hours from our family.

I went to the Emergency Room and they told me the news I feared: I was having a miscarriage.

I was devastated. A few days later I was still having complications, so I had to go back to the E.R. and have a D & C. I truly thought that this was it. We wouldn’t be having any more children. It was awful.

Then a short while later, much to our surprise, we discovered we were expecting again. I spent every day terrified that this would be the day I would miscarry again. Each week I made it to helped a little, and at 40 weeks and 4 days I delivered another healthy baby girl! And 16 months later we were once again blessed with a baby boy.

Our Secondary Infertility struggle has a happy ending in the fact that we were eventually able to have more children. But not every couple has the same ending.  A lot of couples who face secondary infertility delay seeking out treatment because they think that if they had one (or more) children previously, they should be able to have another.  Much like couples facing primary infertility (the inability to conceive a 1st child), there are feelings of embarrassment, inadequacy, and sadness that you are unable to conceive. 

Even more, there is often a feeling of guilt in trying so hard to have another child when so many women are unable to have even one.

Because of this, I can count on one hand the number of people who know about the struggle we went through to have another child.  Even my family members didn’t know what we were going through.  I just never knew how to bring it up in conversation.  But I found myself so encouraged by all the women who reached out to me after our miscarriage and shared their own stories of loss (including my friend Lianna’s story), that I knew I wanted to share mine as well. A couple weeks ago Meghann shared her own story of Secondary Infertility, and as she and I were talking about our respective experiences, she mentioned how important it is to share our experiences with one another. Not only does it help others to know they are not alone, but it also helps to unburden our soul.

secondary infertility kids

I truly hope that by reading my story of my struggle to become a mother (again) those of you who are going through a similar experience will know that it is OKAY to want another child.  It is OKAY to do what you feel you need to in order to make that happen.  And maybe you’ve gone through heartbreak after heartbreak and just don’t think you can do it anymore.  Know that you are not alone in those feelings either. 

As part of our How I Became a Mother series we have featured birth stories, but we have also featured stories of moms who have undergone artificial insemination, become foster/adoptive parents, and become a forever family through international adoption.  All of these women have shown that there are multiple ways to become a mother, and each story is special.



Kaitlyn Swaim
Kaitlyn is the owner of Cedar Rapids Moms Blog and is an Iowa girl who has been married to her husband, Joshua, since 2007! She’s a busy work-at-home mama to their 5 children: 3 girls and 2 boys! A true Hawkeye, she graduated from the University of Iowa with her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, something that comes in handy on a daily basis while trying to raise 5 kids! Her favorite things to do include spending time with her family, cheering on the Hawkeyes, reading a good book, shopping (of course!), and checking out all the activities the Corridor has to offer!


  1. This had me in tears, Kaitlyn! One of the only positive things about my miscarriage was that I was able to empathize with you during yours. Even if I could do nothing more than just put my arm around you and nod my head, knowing someone else understands can make all the difference. I’m so sorry you lost your baby. Sharing your story will offer comfort to others and peace to your heart. Love you!

  2. hi,
    I know how some one feels when facing secondary infertility, believe me it sucks, indeed you are lucky like many others and i feel im the unluckiest woman, I myself am on infertility treatments and trying from last 11yrs and now I’ve stopped hoping that I”ll be pregnant again but the sadness , the longing, the anger,the feeling of incompleteness doesnt go!!!
    the unfortunate part is that my daughter was born when I was 19yrs and totally unprepared for mother hood and even marriage, I resented my pregnancy and was so shy to go infront of my friends and relatives, no friend of mine was married and I used to feel “yuck” I’m married and pregnant####shit!!!
    after 3-4yrs I developed strong feelings to become a mother , I wanted to cuddle and love an infant, I wanted to go through the pleasures of pregnancy and motherhood but I couldn’t conceive!!!!!
    I feel this is not fair…..I’m angry , anxious , hateful and what not , I just hope that my anger and bitterness go away.

  3. Thank you so much for posting! My husband was an only child due to secondary infertility, so I’ve had a secret fear of struggling with it (luckily we didn’t, but I was already agonizing over when to pursue adoption, our personal preference over ivf, if a second baby never came). Trying for her first, my sister had fertility issues caused by the pill. I inwardly cringe when my friends who want more kids go on chemical birth controls, because I know they aren’t always as easy to get off as advertised.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.