Secondary infertility

Submitted by Jenifer on May 20, 2013

Expanding your family by giving your child a little brother or sister can be quite an exciting decision. If conceiving your first child was fairly easy and straightforward you may not expect to face any trouble the second time around. However, there are several couples who experience difficulties while trying to get pregnant with their second baby. This is known as secondary infertility and it affects about one in seven couples who are trying to get pregnant the second time.

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Secondary infertility can be described as the inability to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to its full term, after naturally conceiving one or more kids. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in 1995, more than 3 million women across the US suffer from secondary infertility. This figure has gone up considerably in the recent years.


Most people believe that once you are fertile you will always remain fertile, which unfortunately, is not true. However, because of this misconception, couples experiencing secondary infertility are less likely to undergo timely infertility treatment.

Under normal circumstances, a couple could take up to one year to conceive, after having unprotected sex on a regular basis; for about 10% of the couples it could take up to 2 years. However, if you are an older couple, it is best for you and your partner to consult your general practitioner or a fertility specialist in case you do not conceive after trying for about six months. This will help you identify secondary infertility in its earlier stages, for which you can seek professional treatment. Diagnosing the underlying causes of secondary infertility early and treating it as soon as possible can improve your chances of conceiving again. As some causes of secondary infertility worsen with time, a delay in the treatment could reduce its success rate.

Reasons for secondary infertility

In case you and your partner have not been able to conceive in spite of having regular unprotected sex for about six to twelve months, your doctor may ask you to undergo a few tests, to understand why. Most of the causes of secondary infertility in men and women are quite similar to primary infertility. About one-third of all infertility cases are related to men and one-third, to women. The rest of the cases are either related to both the partners or remain unexplained.

Male infertility usually occurs due to impaired sperm production, delivery or function. Some of the possible reasons for secondary infertility in men include –

  • Low or absent sperm count
  • Problems with sperm motility or movement
  • Abnormal sperm morphology or sperm shape

Female infertility usually occurs due to damage or disorders affecting the reproductive system. Some of the possible reasons for secondary infertility in women include –

  • Blockage in the fallopian tubes
  • Complications from a previous pregnancy
  • Damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus due to endometriosis
  • Ovulation disorders caused by Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) like Chlamydia
  • Uterine polyps or fibroids

There are many factors that could increase the risks of infertility in men and women. These include –

  • Advancing age (fertility usually decreases after the age of 35)
  • Use of certain medication
  • Gaining a significant amount of weight
  • Health conditions like diabetes or thyroid disorders

Both you and your partner will need to undergo tests to identify the exact cause of secondary fertility. The findings of these tests will help your doctor determine the appropriate treatment path.

Coping with secondary infertility

The treatment for secondary infertility may vary, depending upon its causes and severity. Some of the options available include –

  • Fertility drugs
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
  • Surgery for repairing damaged fallopian tubes or removing fibroids

The inability to have another baby naturally can be a highly shocking and stressful experience for any couple, mainly because it is so unexpected. Some people may even wonder why you are undergoing treatment for this problem, as you already have one child and do not necessarily need to have another one. However, rest assured that your need to treat secondary infertility is no different from a couple experiencing primary infertility.

Therefore, instead of coping with secondary infertility on your own, you should seek support from your partner, family, friends and especially your health care provider.

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