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.
CAUSES OF 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 some women, there may have been complications from their previous pregnancy and/or delivery that could have affected the uterus and the ability of an embryo to implant and grow. If an infection occurred and went untreated, adhesions may have developed within the uterus or around the Fallopian tubes. In other women, irregular or absent menstrual cycles can often reveal an underlying ovulation disorder, even if previous conception occurred. Some women may also experience recurrent miscarriage—defined as two or more consecutive, spontaneous pregnancy losses. It is often unknown why miscarriages occur, even when a previous pregnancy has been successful.
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.
DIAGNOSTIC TESTS FOR SECONDARY INFERTILITY
When you visit a fertility specialist, you will begin with a standard infertility work-up to determine a diagnosis.
TREATMENT FOR SECONDARY INFERTILITY
As with other types of infertility, many patients with secondary infertility are able to start with basic treatment options. In some instances though, a couple may need in vitro fertilization (IVF) or donor egg treatment to overcome secondary infertility.
Where can I find a support system for secondary infertility?
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, however, and there are support groups and resources available. Shady Grove Fertility has free support groups that meet regularly in the Mid-Atlantic region, as well as a Facebook community that’s 23,000 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.