Secondary infertility, or the inability to conceive or maintain a pregnancy after previously delivering one or more children, can come as a shock to couples. Many times, couples who had no trouble conceiving the first time find themselves needing fertility treatment when they decide to have another child.
Recently, more and more parents are starting to research egg banks as an option for completing their families. If other treatments are unsuccessful, what is it like to use a donor egg for IVF?
Wading through misinformation
One woman at my playgroup recently said, “Once you have your first baby, even if getting pregnant was hard, you will be able to get pregnant again more easily. Your body just knows what to do now.”
Sorry lady, but it doesn’t work like that. Getting pregnant again after the first baby can be challenging for many reasons.
One leading cause of secondary infertility is simply age. You have aged since your first baby was born, and that means your eggs are older as well. Older eggs are more likely to have abnormalities that make it harder to get and stay pregnant. Between your first pregnancy, caring for an infant, and trying for a second child, you are probably at least two to three years older than you were last time you tried. You may not feel different, but those few years could make a real difference to your fertility.
Having to deal with others’ misinformed comments may make parents want to avoid future play dates if they are dealing with secondary infertility.
Dealing with major mom guilt
It’s hard enough being a mom to a little one. Some days are great, but others may leave you questioning if you have the emotional tools to mold your child into a resilient, capable adult someday (you do!). But combine these with the feeling like your body is betraying you, the sadness of not being able to provide a sibling, and the guilt of feeling like you should just be happy you already have a child, even while you ache for a baby that is not there—and you’ve got a recipe for some heavy-duty emotional turmoil.
It is important to talk to a counselor if these complicated feelings are boiling over, especially if egg donor IVF is in the picture. Getting emotional clarity on how you feel about using a donor egg to provide a sibling and complete your family is important. Many moms need time to grieve that the new baby will not be born from their own genetic material.
If you and your doctor agree that using donor eggs is your best option, the first step is to choose your donor. For fresh donor eggs, prospective parents need to find a donor, have her screened, wait for her to undergo treatments to produce the eggs and have them retrieved. The recipient and donor also need to take extra medication to get their menstrual cycles in sync so that the eggs are retrieved when the recipient is at the right point in her cycle to accept them. Frozen egg banks take some of the hard work and coordination out of this step by allowing parents to choose from prescreened donors whose eggs have already been retrieved.
Once a donor is selected and the eggs have arrived, the fertility clinic will thaw and fertilize them. Many couples take comfort in the fact that the father can contribute to fertilization—and to the baby’s genetics. A sperm donor may also be used.
A few days later, after the fertilized eggs develop into embryos, the doctor implants the healthiest and strongest-looking embryo(s) (usually one to two) into the mother, who will have taken medication to help her uterus welcome this precious cargo.
Finding out good news
If all goes well, moms will finally have good news to share when nosy play group friends ask when your little one will get a sister or brother. Amid the joy and relief of a positive pregnancy test, remember to enjoy your down time, because the advice of “napping when the baby naps” does not apply when you are also caring for your older child. Pregnancy can also take a more exhausting toll on the body when you are chasing after a little one instead of kicking up your feet with ice cream and pickles. However, seeing your child proudly hold a newborn sibling and watching the family grow together will be worth all the hard times.
Disclosure: This is a featured article