When Your Next Pregnancy Doesn’t Come Easy

When baby number two (or three) doesn't come easy

When Your Next Pregnancy Doesn't Come EasyBack when you first decided to start a family, your guy simply looked your way and you became pregnant. (Okay, he had to do a bit more than look, but fertility was definitely not an issue.) Fast-forward a few years, and you want to try for number two or even three. This time, months go by—nothing. Then a couple more—still no hits. Could you have developed an infertility problem in between baby one and two?

“After a relatively uneventful first pregnancy, I didn’t really consider the possibility that it might be difficult to have another child,” says Samantha Weeds*, a 39-year-old Toronto-based mom who decided to see a fertility specialist after failing to conceive. Now Weeds must endure the constant questioning from others about when she’s going to have a second child. “It’s so imposing when you’re having difficulty getting pregnant,” she says.

Why now?

“It’s quite common for women to have problems getting pregnant with their second (or third) child,” says Dr. Heather Shapiro, a fertility specialist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. One of the biggest reasons is age. Fertility drops dramatically at 35. “Depending on where you’re at in your own personal aging cycle, a year or two can make a big difference,” says Dr. Shapiro. If you’re over 35, you should see a fertility expert if nothing has happened after six months. Treatment success rates are high, but with age-related infertility you don’t want to waste any time.

You may have also been fortunate the first time. Irregular ovulation is a major cause of infertility. “In most cases, it makes pregnancy difficult, but not impossible,” says Dr. Shapiro. “I call it the one-in-20 count.” Women with low fertility (or partners with low sperm count) have a chance of getting pregnant one time in 20.

Cause and effect

Lastly, there may not be a preexisting problem, but something may have happened in the interim. Were there any complications during your delivery? What about lifestyle changes? “Stress can seriously limit your chances,” says Dr. Sushma Shah, owner of Nature’s Intentions Naturopathic Clinic in Toronto (naturesintentionsnaturopathy.com), “as can diet. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, look at the way you eat and how you live your life.”

Better your chances

Below are some fertility dos for boosting your chances of conceiving. They are most effective with women who have irregular ovulation issues. “If you already have an identified problem, go straight to a fertility doctor,” says Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a researcher in reproductive function at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and co-author of The Fertility Diet.

Above all, remain optimistic. If you conceived once, your chances of getting pregnant again are very good. “We’re always more successful in treating secondary infertility,” says Dr. Shapiro.

Nancy Ripton is the co-founder of justthefactsbaby.com, a pregnancy and early years website. She is expecting her second child.

the fertility “it” list

What you can do to help nature along

  • Relax Stress can naturally decrease fertility by altering the balance of female hormones. Take a regular B vitamin, incorporate yoga or meditation into your day and take a vacation. “It’s amazing how many women get pregnant when they take a mini ‘time-out’ from their life,” says Dr. Shah.
  • Eat foods that improve the body’s ability to respond to insulin Insulin resistance can boost male hormones, making it difficult to conceive. Cut back on red meat and trans fats and eat a variety of colourful veggies and nuts such as walnuts and almonds.
  • Eat full-fat dairy Researchers aren’t sure why high-fat dairy boosts fertility, while low-fat dairy decreases your chances of conceiving. “We think it may be related to the different hormone contents,” says Dr. Chavarro. “High-fat dairy also contains cow pregnancy hormones, which could boost your chance of having a baby.” This should only be used as a temporary measure, he adds.
  • Finish breastfeeding Intermittent breastfeeding may decrease fertility. If you’ve been trying to conceive for six months, you may want to consider weaning your toddler off the breast.
  • Break a sweat Studies have found that vigorous exercise boosts fertility. But keep an eye on your body weight. “For women who are already lean, losing further weight can actually impair ovulation and make it harder to get pregnant,” says Dr. Chavarro.

* name has been changed

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