Secondary infertility is the inability to get pregnant or carry a baby to full term after having previously been pregnant and given birth without the need for fertility treatment or assistance.
This can take couples by surprise and most people with secondary infertility had a relatively easy time conceiving before. This scenario is more common than most people realize, and if you are experiencing secondary infertility, you are not alone.
If you have been trying to conceive and have not been successful, you may be experiencing infertility. Women under the age of 35 years old are recommended to meet with their fertility specialist after twelve months of trying or after six months of trying for those over 35 years old. These recommendations are true for both primary and secondary infertility. Though primary and secondary infertility are very similar, they are not the same.
Secondary infertility may arise for different reasons than primary infertility and often have a different emotional impact. A couple’s struggles may be obvious and easy to diagnose through a review of the medical history or fertility testing. However, at times, the reasons may be less clear and more challenging to diagnose. Regardless, infertility can occur at any point in the reproductive lifecycle.
For a natural conception to occur, the following must happen:
• Ovulation (the release of the egg from the ovary)
• Fertilization (the sperm and egg coming together)
• The embryo travels to the uterus
• Implantation of the embryo in the uterus
It is important to remember that either partner could play a role in infertility.
The inability to conceive or stay pregnant after a previous successful pregnancy and birth may be frustrating, isolating, and confusing. Aside from a healthy baby, what you want most are answers. Speaking with a fertility specialist will help to uncover your issues and together you can create a treatment plan, click here.
Secondary Infertility Causes
There may be many identifiable and unidentifiable causes for secondary infertility, making it difficult to explain why you are having trouble conceiving. This may be scary if you previously had ease conceiving a child; however, understanding the potential reasons behind secondary infertility can empower you on your journey to conceive.
Issues with the Ovaries, Fallopian Tubes, or Uterus
Most fertility issues for women result from the ovaries, where the eggs are. These issues can be related to either ovulatory dysfunction (which is the failure to consistently ovulate or release an egg) egg quality or quantity issues. Certain conditions can result in an egg not being released regularly; these include but are not limited to:
• PCOS – polycystic ovary syndrome
• POI – primary ovarian insufficiency
• Lifestyle factors (age, weight, nutrition)
• Endocrine disorders affecting hormone regulation
Reviewing your medical history helps your specialist determine the possible cause behind your difficulty in conceiving. Since your last pregnancy, you or your partner may have had some changes to your health which may cause a decrease in fertility. Both lifestyle factors, health conditions, surgeries, and changes in healthy habits can impact a couple’s ability to conceive.
It takes an egg and sperm to make a baby, and men are not immune to fertility issues. Up to 50% of infertility is attributed to the male partner and infertility factors related to sperm include but are not limited to:
• Low sperm count
• Azoospermia (no viable sperm)
• Sperm abnormalities
• Prostate removal
• Taking medications or conditions that affect hormone production.
• Varicocele (a varicose vein affecting the scrotum)
A semen analysis is a simple test to determine sperm count, motility, and morphology. These numbers may change over time, especially if the individual had significant changes in medical history. If you or your partner are concerned about this issue, it is a good idea to seek the support of a fertility specialist.
The Emotional and Mental Impacts of Secondary Infertility
Infertility is devastating no matter when it occurs and the emotional response to secondary infertility can be different from that experienced by individuals struggling with primary infertility.
Confusion is a common response, especially considering you were able to conceive and carry a pregnancy before. Other common emotions include sadness, anger, guilt, and loneliness.
Modern treatments continue to improve, allowing more couples to realize their dream of conceiving. If you are coping with secondary infertility, these tips may help:
Find your support system. Talk to people you can trust. Discuss your concerns with your fertility specialist and infertility support group.
Connect with your partner. Avoid blaming each other (and yourself). Acknowledge your feelings of loss and take time to discuss your feelings. Secondary infertility may challenge even the strongest relationships; therefore, working together to achieve the same goal (another baby) may lessen the emotional burden.
Focus on what you can control. Educating yourself about the causes of secondary infertility, the availability of diagnostic testing, and potential treatment options can empower you to decide how to move forward.
Paths to Building a Family
Many couples do overcome secondary infertility and achieve subsequent pregnancies with the help of a fertility specialist. Often, the treatment for secondary infertility is the same as prescribed for people with primary infertility.
The couple’s age, the cause(s) of secondary infertility, and how many additional children the couple desires will influence the recommendation regarding treatment options.