Dr. Naveed Khan, who sees patients in SGF’s Leesburg, VA location, joined Fox 5’s Good Day DC, alongside lifestyle expert and SGF patient, Stacey Rusch, to open up the conversation surrounding secondary infertility and the treatment options available to patients.
Stacey begins by sharing her fertility journey thus far. “We were blessed to have a beautiful baby girl naturally. I had a healthy pregnancy, no complications, and a natural birth. I thought when we wanted to expand our family and have our second child, I would have another baby. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. We tried and tried, and eventually, I decided to seek help and that’s how I found Shady Grove Fertility and Dr. Khan.”
Secondary infertility is the inability to become pregnant—despite engaging in regular unprotected intercourse—following the birth of one or more biological children who were born without the aid of fertility treatment or medications.
Experiencing secondary infertility is more common than you might expect. “One in eight couples have problems with infertility, which translates to about 8 million couples, and about one-third to one-half of them have secondary infertility,” Dr. Khan explains. “A lot of people find that quite high, but it is one of the most common diagnoses we work with.”
What Causes Secondary Infertility?
Maternal Age: One of the leading causes of secondary infertility is the female partner’s age. As a woman gets older, the quality and quantity of her eggs decrease. While she may have had her first child without a problem, she could encounter a change in egg quality or quantity if she tries to conceive again several years later.
Internal Complications: In the span of time between the birth of a first child and attempt at conceiving baby number two, changes within a woman’s body may have occurred. Changes to the uterus, infections, or even Fallopian tube issues could make getting and staying pregnant more difficult.
Male Factor Infertility: As with women, male aging can have an effect on reproductive health, potentially affecting sperm quality and quantity. But while these changes may be due to age, they could also be due to new medications or lifestyle changes like weight gain or a new smoking habit (which can also affect female fertility).
Weight Gain: For both men and women, weight gain can have a significant impact on the ability to conceive, sometimes leading to ovulatory dysfunction in women or reduced sperm quality in men.
As with other types of infertility, many patients with secondary infertility are able to start with basic treatment options. In some instances, however, a couple may need IVF or donor egg treatment to overcome secondary infertility.
“I had two options when we weren’t conceiving,” Stacey recalls. “I could say that I already have a child and I’m not getting pregnant, so it’s just not meant to be. Or I could seek help, get information, and make an informed decision. My husband and I chose to proceed with IVF because with my diagnosis of secondary infertility and my medical history, my chances of getting pregnant unassisted are very low. So, we are pushing forward and we are choosing to use IVF to grow our family.”
Dr. Khan elaborates on some of the other treatment options available to those struggling with secondary infertility. “There are simple options–if you’re having problems with ovulation, there are medicines that can help you ovulate. There are basic treatments like intrauterine insemination (IUI). Basic principle is to get more eggs and more sperm together for a higher chance of becoming pregnant. And of course, like Stacey is undergoing, IVF is another option where you’re actually taking the eggs and sperm, and making the embryos in the lab. The amazing part is now you can do genetic testing of embryos, and only put back the embryos that are good, which increases your chances of getting pregnant and reduces miscarriage rate.”
Finding Emotional Support
Many people who experience secondary infertility can feel surprised, alone, and not know how to share their feelings with their friends and family. You may experience unwelcome reactions from your friends and family who may not understand why you’re so upset because you already have one or more children. It can be very difficult to make sense of these challenges and to stop feeling so distant from everyone around you.
You are not alone. Shady Grove Fertility has free support groups as well as a Facebook community that’s 27,000 members strong and counting. We encourage you to take advantage of the free resources in order to connect with others who are experiencing similar situations and feelings as you.
For more information about secondary infertility or to schedule an appointment, please call our New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or click here to complete this brief online form.