Struggling to conceive after having your first baby? There’s a name for that, and it’s more common than you think

When people think of infertility, they typically think of people trying to bring their first child into the world. There’s then a widespread assumption that if you had baby number one, everything after that will be a breeze. But what if you’re someone who already has one child (or more), but is now struggling to conceive or carry a pregnancy again? The reality is: you’re not alone. This is called secondary infertility—and it’s more common than you might think. As CEO and Co-Founder of Cofertility, I speak with parents experiencing this every day, and it’s something my husband and I experienced on our own journey to baby number two. 

Secondary infertility is defined as the struggle to conceive a child after the healthy pregnancy and delivery of another baby by the same parents. While most people know the statistic that 1 in 6 people will struggle to conceive throughout their lifetime, very few people know that around 30% of infertility cases are actually classified as secondary infertility. 

Secondary infertility is caused by many of the same factors as primary infertility; similarly, solutions like IVF and donor egg IVF are common options. However, we see from our own members that navigating the emotional impacts of secondary infertility can be as emotionally jarring as primary infertility. Parents often report feeling isolated or alienated as topics around secondary infertility aren’t as commonly discussed. They also feel a heightened pressure to provide their child with a sibling or struggle with whether they should just be content with a single child (which, for many, is a perfect choice!). 

If you’re experiencing secondary infertility, some of the following might feel familiar 

Guilt, rather than gratitude

After hearing it from friends and family, you might also wonder why you aren’t content with the child you already have. You might start wondering: am I spending too much time and energy away from my first child in order to focus on having a second? While this is a valid consideration, try not to let guilt take over. The idea that “at least you have one” does not make it easier to relinquish your dream of having more than one child. Everyone has unique and individual family building goals and you can work on building the family that you want while being grateful for the one that you have.


There’s always the ever-present neighbor or cousin asking, “When are you giving little Johnny a baby sister?” just like how they told you that, “You’re not getting any younger!” before you had your first. Remember, you’re not obligated to disclose personal information if you’re not comfortable discussing it. If you’re feeling annoyed or pressured, it’s perfectly OK to politely deflect the question or change the subject. However, if you choose to share, you can say something like, “We are currently undergoing fertility treatment and could use some support,” or simply state, “We’ll expand our family when we’re ready and able.” Always remember to prioritize your comfort and boundaries in these exchanges. 


Maybe you made some amazing playgroup parent friends with your first child, but now that they’re all having their second or third children, you feel like you and your child are being left behind. Mix this in with the sadness you feel about not giving your child a sibling, and it’s a lot to bear. One way to ease this burden is by making an effort to surround yourself with others who understand your situation. Seeking support from understanding friends or finding solace in support groups can provide a sense of belonging and comfort. Connecting with individuals who are navigating similar journeys can remind you that you’re not alone in your feelings and experiences.


It can be heartbreaking to have a child who is old enough to ask for a younger brother or sister, but not old enough to understand why it hasn’t happened yet. Toddler questions are often repeated… relentlessly. Your child might even start to call their friend’s younger sibling their own “baby sister” to help fill their desire. For me, this one cut deeper than anyone else asking about our plans for baby number two, because it came from such an innocent and earnest place. 

Delayed decision-making

If you had little-to-no trouble conceiving your first child, you may experience shock and disbelief when it doesn’t happen as easily the second time around. Those experiencing secondary fertility sometimes delay seeking medical help. Worse still, they might be initially turned away by doctors telling them to “just keep trying.” Don’t be afraid to ask for help. According to RESOLVE, if you’ve been trying for over a year and you’re under 35, or 6 months and you’re over 35—regardless of whether you have already had a child—it might be time to see a doctor and find out if fertility treatments are the answer.

What can you do about secondary fertility?

Part of the challenge around secondary infertility is that it often catches people off-guard. So even if you’ve had no trouble conceiving in the past, it’s important to be proactive and address any fertility concerns to help you make informed decisions.

Consider testing

If you have concerns about your fertility, or are just curious about your ovarian reserve, ask your doctor about appropriate tests to assess your reproductive health. Understanding your fertility potential can help guide discussions about future family planning. 

Possible tests include hormone level assessments to measure fertility biomarkers like anti-mullerian hormone (AMH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), estrogen, progesterone and thyroid hormones. These tests help evaluate ovarian function, the menstrual cycle and potential hormonal imbalances that may affect fertility. You can also do pelvic ultrasounds to help evaluate the health and condition of the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, along with semen analysis to assess the quantity, quality and movement of sperm. 

Make a plan with your doctor

With this information, you can consider your family planning goals and develop a plan, whether that’s starting to try to conceive earlier to considering egg freezing, IUI or IVF. While many people think about egg freezing as a way to delay family building, it can also be a viable path for those who may be ready to start a family soon, but recognize they might have a harder time conceiving their second or third children and want to get ahead of potential issues. 

Acknowledge your feelings

If you’re currently experiencing secondary infertility, the first and most important step is to acknowledge what you’re feeling and going through. Seeing a counselor familiar with fertility challenges can be a great starting point. They can help you adjust to your new situation and guide you through potential next steps.

If you’re comfortable, you can also speak with your child(ren) about what they might be feeling. Be honest with them about what your family is going through. You can share that you wish you could expand your family too, and then pivot the conversation to talking about what’s wonderful about your family, just as it is. 

Think through next steps

For some with secondary infertility, IVF may be the right next step. But if you have already been told that your egg quality or quantity is insufficient for IVF, then it may be time to turn to donor eggs. Depending on your individual circumstances, the chances of having a baby using a donor egg may be significantly higher than the chances of having a baby with IVF using your own eggs. While it’s not a decision that we see any parents take lightly, donor egg IVF can give hope to your dreams of having another child. 

Cofertility offers a unique egg donation program that serves everyone involved: the parents, the donor and the future donor-conceived child. Our egg-sharing model has removed all cash compensation and instead allows the donor to keep half of the eggs retrieved while donating the other half to help individuals and couples grow their families. There’s a lot to consider before embarking on the donor egg IVF journey, particularly if you already have one (or more) biological children. I spend my days talking to intended parents about the most important traits in a donor. For some, it’s important to find a donor who looks like them so that they may bear physical resemblance to their other children. For others, they’re more focused on finding a donor who shares a personality trait or hobby with themselves or a close family member. 

Through it all, remember that you also don’t have to go through this alone. There are many community resources dedicated to people experiencing secondary infertility and Cofertility is one of them. We work to make this a warmer, more human-centric process by offering personalized guidance and support throughout this journey. 

If you find yourself in the midst of this struggle today, you can acknowledge each of your feelings in the moment. Don’t listen to anyone—including yourself—who tells you that it’s too early to think about it, too early to take action, or that you should just be grateful for what you have. Being grateful doesn’t preclude you from wanting more. We believe in a world where everyone can build the family of their dreams on their terms and timelines—you are no exception.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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