According to some reports, secondary infertility is experienced at an even higher rate than primary infertility, the main cause being advanced reproductive age. In other words, individuals and couples are having children earlier the first time around, and age is often not on their side when they’re ready to have a second child. If the time to conception was initially minimal, they assume that it will just be a matter of time to the next conception, and they delay seeking treatment.
If they do seek treatment, they often try to have another baby with their own genetics. Sometimes this is successful, and other times it is not. A medical professional might introduce the idea of donor sperm, donor eggs, or donor embryo, and the person or couple must grapple with the idea of loss of genetics. Their first child is fully connected to both partners, but the second child would be connected to one, or possibly neither.
As a counselor, I do my best to put myself in the shoes of these patients/clients. What must it be like to be faced with the possibility of not being able to pass your genetics on to your child? For some, it might come as a relief. Perhaps they have always been concerned about their history of anxiety, or depression, and the thought of possibly not passing these on is desirable. Perhaps they were always bothered by their height, and the idea of choosing a taller donor is appealing.
It takes the majority of people a decent amount of time to process having to utilize a donor, especially if it was not needed in the creation of their first child. They wonder if they will be able to bond with the baby in utero. They struggle with the possibility of not loving a donor conceived child as much as a fully genetic child. They wonder if they will treat the children differently.
While all of these concerns are valid, they typically do not come to fruition.
The clinic I work at provides a monthly support group for those experiencing any type of fertility challenge. There is a general support group, as well as one specifically designed for those who have made the decision to utilize donor sperm, donor eggs, a combination of both, or donor embryo. This group allows participants to bounce ideas and questions off of one another, as well as share feelings of grief, loss, joy, and excitement. After all, this is a different way of creating a family, and a supreme wealth of information and support is provided from both the counselors and participants.
At last month’s group, there were three (out of twelve) people who were in this position. They had a full genetic child, and were either considering using donor sperm or egg, or were in the process. It is on the rise. It is on the rise because people are having their first child later, and after unsuccessful treatment attempts to have a second child with their own gametes, they are moving on to donor conception.
This way of creating a family is not often discussed in public. Fortunately there are support groups available, but they are still few and far between. We need to do better to support those who need others to talk to about this delicate type of situation.