Special guest post from friend, fellow childbirth educator, and fertility specialist, Liz Escoffery!
Secondary infertility is confusing! In the case of a couple that had no issue becoming pregnant, why should the passage of years and previous pregnancies (1+) render them unable to conceive? For some couples, trying to get pregnant again can be a season of perpetual waiting and disappointment. If this is you, you may feel like you cannot invest too much time and money into investigating what may be going on due to family demands and activities. For other couples, the desire to add to their family becomes paramount in importance, resulting in a flurry of testing, treatments, procedures, and frequent intercourse (to the brink of sheer exhaustion), hoping to time it right this time.
Is there a middle way between inaction and “all the things”? I would like to propose charting. Beginning to track your cycles is a logical, insightful, and inexpensive first or next step that can help you discover why you are not getting pregnant and help you move forward with hope.
Here are my top three reasons that you should begin charting your fertility if you are experiencing secondary infertility:
1. Fertility waxes and wanes throughout the cycle.
The woman’s body is not able to conceive at any given time of the cycle. In her book Taking Charge of Your Fertility, author and fertility awareness-based method educator Toni Weschler says, “Physicians are trained to identify disease and illness, often by diagnosing and treating with high-tech procedures. The result is that the most obvious solutions are often overlooked. A good example of this is the relationship between frequency of intercourse and pregnancy” (1). If you are ovulating early or late in some or all cycles, then general recommendations of when to time intercourse will be irrelevant. In an academic study, only 30% of women were fertile during between days 10 and 17 of their cycle (2). By learning the details of your cervical mucus (which is necessary for sperm survival), you will have a good idea in the present cycle of when you are nearing ovulation. Body temperature and LH kits can sometimes be helpful, but they are not nearly as insightful as cervical mucus.
2. Learning to chart incorporates crucial emotional support.
Other than your husband, most women do not share that they are trying to conceive again with many other people. By working one-on-one with an instructor, you have access to an objective third party who knows your desire to conceive. This can help you to work through thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise during your charting and/or treatments. While this emotional support does not replace professional counseling in any way, I plan time into your appointment to discuss the feelings and added stress of trying to get pregnant. Infertility can devastate a marriage but teamwork in adversity has the potential to instead, strengthen a marriage. I have seen couples emerge from secondary infertility with a closer bond with one another. I partner with Organic Conceptions to provide all my clients who are trying to become pregnant with an evidence-based pre-conception audio counseling program. A recent study showed that concentrating on your emotional health in a concrete way increases conception rates by 42%. Being healthier emotionally allows you to be present and engaged with your child(ren), husband, and the world around you.
3. Charting can improve your health.
Even if nothing visible has changed with your health, the inability to get pregnant (especially if male fertility issues have been ruled out) can be a symptom of an underlying condition or disease. Diagnosing and treating whatever condition(s) you may have can help you conceive. Treating this root cause of infertility can help you achieve optimal health so you can feel your best. Charting will help your doctor know when to order cycle-timed tests and prescribe medications. There are no side effects or required courses of action by just beginning to track your fertility. It’s just information. It is then up to you about your next steps (if any).
Secondary infertility can feel like the suspension or loss of a dream of how you envisioned your family would look. If you are ready to get some answers, I would encourage you to begin charting your fertility. It is empowering, it is a little task of self-care, and I have never encountered a woman who wishes she had not learned more about her body through charting.
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Adina Nelson, CD(DONA)
I am a birth & postpartum doula and chlidbirth educator practicing in North Idaho.
She was there every step of the way for me and my husband...I thank Adina for everything she helped us with. She truly is a special person and we will be forever grateful for her! ~Erin