Secondary infertility is when a couple has had at least one child, is trying to get pregnant again, but doesn’t conceive after at least one year of trying.
Secondary infertility can be confusing and mind-boggling. You had no trouble getting pregnant last time. So, why isn’t it happening now?
Many people think primary infertility is more common than secondary infertility. Primary infertility is when a couple has never had children and can’t conceive.
However, the truth is the numbers are half and half.
According to the Center for Disease Control, 11% of couples who already have a child go on to experience secondary infertility. That’s approximately 4 million families or about half of all infertility cases.
Couples experiencing secondary infertility may be more likely to put off seeking help. They may also find that friends, family, and even doctors downplay their fertility struggles.
After all, they have one kid. (Or two kids, or more…) Isn’t that enough?
The truth is that whether you’re struggling for child number one, number two, or number five, there is anxiety and grief to confront. Coping with secondary infertility has its own challenges.
You have an image of what you thought your family would be. Your child may be asking for a sibling. And the medical causes of secondary infertility aren’t any less difficult to treat and diagnosis than primary infertility.
Secondary infertility is caused by the same problems that lead to primary infertility.
Those causes include:
Male infertility due to low or absent sperm count, problems with sperm shape (also known as sperm morphology), or problems with sperm movement (also known as sperm motility)
Problems with ovulation, whether irregular ovulation or anovulation
Blocked fallopian tubes
Immunological issues (problems with natural killer cells or anti-sperm antibodies)
Hostile cervical mucus
Problems with the endometrium
Adhesions or uterine scaring
About one-third of infertility cases are related to male infertility, another third are related to female infertility, and another third are related to problems in both the man and woman or remain unexplained.
Why Can’t I Conceive This Time Around?
This is the biggest question in the minds of those experience secondary infertility.
Secondary infertility may strike when…
You’re older: if you had your first child at 35, and you’re trying for a second at 38, your fertility has naturally declined significantly.
Age is a major cause of secondary infertility.
You’re with a new partner: it could be your new partner has an undiagnosed infertility problem. But it’s also possible the one with kids from a prior relationship has developed a fertility problem.
Either situation can occur.
An underlying fertility problem has worsened: it’s possible you always had endometriosis, or you always had subclinical PCOS. Maybe your ovarian reserves were already on the downslide, but you had no idea.
Time has passed, and things have worsened. It happens.
You’ve gained weight: fertility is affected by weight. Being over or underweight can cause ovulation problems in women, and possible impact sperm health in men.
New parents often gain weight (partially from the pregnancy, partially from the stress and lack of sleep.) This may be enough to push you to the infertile side.
You have a new health problem: perhaps you or your partner has developed diabetes. Maybe he’s taking medication for high blood pressure. Or, perhaps you’re suffering from depression.
Any of these illnesses may impact your fertility or require medication that can impact your fertility.