Why Trying to Conceive Again May be Harder Than the First Time

Here’s something that may surprise you: the biggest challenge of conceiving a second child isn’t necessarily finding the time to have enough sex. Unless your first child is very young, or not yet sleeping through the night (in which case a second child may well not be on the cards anyway) it’s almost always possible to carve out time for sex, even if it means sacrificing ten minutes of sleep, or squeezing in a quickie between the baby’s bedtime and cooking your dinner. If you want a baby, you can make the time. No, a lot of the challenges of conceiving a second child are more subtle, and mostly emotional rather than physical or practical.

So here is my run down of some the top reasons why trying to conceive again may be more challenging than it was the first time.

The age gap pressure.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. I’ve written about it so many times now that I know I’m getting boring. It simply doesn’t exist when you are trying for your first child. Of course I know that there is a lot of impatience – I’m sure that most women who have decided they really want a baby are probably like me and really want a baby *NOW*. But the sense of urgency will be all but cleanly wiped from your memory once you actually have that baby in your arms, because it’s true that they are totally worth waiting for. With your second child, however, there will be a constant reminder of the time it took to conceive them in the form of the age difference to their sibling.

The enquiries from strangers.

“When are you going to have another then?”

“So you’ll be having another one soon then?”

I get these kind of enquiries all the time. Again, I know it also happens to women before they’ve had their first child, particularly if you get married and/or move in together. People who know you well will start making light-hearted remarks about the patter of tiny feet and even the odd stranger may ask if you’re going to be starting a family. But once you already have a child, it steps up a whole gear. People start telling you that you shouldn’t leave it too long. Or worse, that you can’t possibly only have the one child, as if that is somehow a form of cruelty. This is particularly hard for me in my very public-facing job, where my patients often treat me a very familiar way, because my own style is very friendly, and they think nothing of asking when I’ll next be on maternity leave. I think people partly think these questions are fine to ask of people who already have children because of the assumption that:

You have one baby, so therefore you should be able to have another.

Despite secondary infertility actually being more common than primary infertility, an awful lot of people still don’t know that it happens. Lots can change between conceiving one child and trying to conceive another, not least childbirth itself. Plus we’re all older when we try for our second child than we were when trying for our first. However, people see one child and assume another will be possible.

The assumption of simply being able to have another child comes from within too. Struggling to conceive a second child, particularly if you conceived easily the first time, can be enormously frustrating because it does go against that superficial logic. By contrast, most people are aware of infertility and will often start their journey to try to conceive their first child with at least a seed of possibility in the back of their mind that they may have a problem, or perhaps a strong hope that they won’t be one of the couples who do.

No escape from babies and families.

Since you already have a child, you are fully immersed in the parenting world. Not only do you know exactly what you are missing out on, you’re likely to be surrounded by mum friends, many of whom may be getting pregnant again, and mum strangers who all seem to have more than one child. The school holidays are particularly difficult for this, and I’ll shamefacedly confess to not joining a planned children’s centre activity this week because when I arrived all the other mums were either pregnant, or had one baby in a sling whilst chasing their toddler around. (Perhaps I would have dealt with it better had my period not arrived that morning. Hey-ho.)

When you’re trying to conceive your first child, you will see pregnant women everywhere, and feel like the whole world is having babies, but somehow it’s easier to turn a blind eye when you have plenty of non-baby things to be getting on with, like enjoying trips to the cinema or theatre, and spontaneous afternoons of drinking in the sun in a pub garden.

Feeling torn between sadness at not conceiving, and happiness with the child you have.

And being made to feel guilty by people stating the very obvious “at least you have Thomas”. Well, duh. I dislike the implication that I’m not endlessly grateful for the miracle of this child in my life, but having one child is not the same as having two. And I want my son to have a sibling who will hopefully be there for him in to old age when we are long gone. It was easier to want one child, and wallow in the pity of not being pregnant with wine and chocolate. Now I feel sad, and my mind frequently wanders to thoughts of another child, but I can’t let that affect how I am as a Mummy to the child I already have. Which is hard. I’ll always be over the moon to have Thomas in my life, but if we didn’t have a second child, I’d always feel like we had a little bit missing.

The emotional side of sex.

Time for sex may be a surmountable problem, but there is no denying that the actual act of trying for a baby is different the second time around.Sex is less relaxed when there is a possibility of being interrupted, and there may be a background voice urging you not to make too much noise. It’s definitely easier for it to become a chore, and something that happens solely for procreation purposes, which in itself isn’t helpful to your relationship or you chances of success.


I’ll admit that I used to think that people struggling to conceive a subsequent child had it far easier than those trying to conceive their first. I’m guilty of having had the “but you already have a child” thought. But I know now that the desire for more children is just as strong as the desire for a first, and just as valid and important. It is just as innate and uncontrollable. And I’ve also come to see all the extra complicating factors that I’ve listed above. This is, as always, a pretty personal post. I realise that not all of these things will be applicable to every woman, and not every woman will share my desires and viewpoint. But hopefully it may give some food for thought before you ask someone about when they are planning to have another child, or point out the obvious that at least they already have their first child. These kind of questions and statements are, for me, up there with asking if a baby was planned, or unsolicited touching of the bump.

If you’ve not started trying to conceive your next child, I hope this post never becomes applicable to you, and that you find conceiving your second easier than your first. But if not, please feel free to say hello! And any tips, please pass them my way.


6 Replies to “Why Trying to Conceive Again May be Harder Than the First Time”

  1. Oh love – I’m so sorry 🙁

    Falling pregnant seems to happen at the most unexpected of times; like when you’ve given up trying, you start to relax and enjoy sex again, and then *bam*! I guess just try to relax, enjoy your time together as a couple and try not to fall into the trap of “we must have sex now because it’s the best time of the month”… if that makes sense? I know it’s easier said than done.

    Lots of love xxx

    1. Thanks Hannah. I swing between being relaxed and positive about it happening soon, and being utterly heartbroken that it hasn’t happened already. I’ve been reasonably successful at not being too obsessive, but I think I’m more frustrated at the moment as we could have had a baby by now if we’d fallen when we started trying, and as it is I’m not even pregnant yet. It helps to vent sometimes!

  2. So sorry to hear you’re going through this – completely understand the frustration and just general all-round awfulness of the situation (we struggled to get pregnant). The desire to have a baby is still the desire to have a baby – even if you already have a child. Let me know if you ever want to chat / vent etc xx.

    1. Thanks Gill, and I’m sorry that you understand the frustration. The desire for a child is such a strange, powerful thing. I never intended for my blog to go off in the TTC direction to the extent that it seems to be, but somehow it helps to share it. I’m also finding it helpful that quite a few people IRL also know – which is the opposite to what we did last time, and the opposite to what a lot of people do. It seems to help people be a bit more sensitive (although I still get the corners about being grateful for Thomas – as if I’m not!) and just makes me feel better that people know how much we want another child.I may take you up on the chat one day, and I’m sure there will be more venting here too!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. Your words describe exactly how I’m feeling. I’m finding that besides my wonderful sister, no one else around me has even been remotely supportive. Even those friends that struggled to concieve the first time and now have their babies are telling me “Its because you’re stressed.” Thanks, I’m pretty sure I’m not that stressed about it but I do care about it and its upsetting. Going to the DR for some tests this month. Still hopefull.

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