What to Know about Secondary Infertility

Friday, August 18, 2017
Couple Talking at Home
Looking at Secondary Infertility
Women are waiting longer before having their first child, according to a variety of research studies. However, many women are waiting less time after the birth of their first child to become pregnant with their second. Why? The older a woman is when she conceives her first child, the older she will be when she conceives for the second or subsequent times, and age can affect fertility.

Secondary Infertility Is Not Rare

It isn't uncommon for women and couples to have a complication-free pregnancy and birth of a first child, but then be unable to conceive the second time. Secondary infertility is the inability to become pregnant and carry a child to term after already having delivered one or more biological children. More than 1 million couples are affected by this issue, and it accounts for 60 percent of infertility cases, say experts.
Couple Connecting

Causes of Secondary Infertility

Like other types of infertility, secondary infertility has physical causes. Age is a factor for both men and women, as is stress, which can prevent ovulation as well as sperm production. Even 5 years can make a difference in a couple's ability to conceive after their first child. Lifestyle choices, such as cigarette smoking, can cause problems with conception, but sometimes, there is no clear reason for the issue. Some additional causes of secondary infertility include:
  • For women, the most common causes are endometriosis, fallopian tube disease, or irregular ovulation. Scarring in the abdomen caused by previous surgeries are another possible cause, as are intrauterine adhesions, left behind as a result of a uterine infection. Weight gain can affect hormone production and fertility as well.
  • For men, sperm motility and sperm concentration is a common cause of infertility. Some medications affect sperm production, as do diseases or health conditions like diabetes. Weight gain in men can increase estrogen production, which can also affect sperm production.
Couple with their Doctor

Dealing with Secondary Infertility

Secondary infertility can be an emotional and heart-wrenching experience, especially if you delivered a healthy child with an event-free pregnancy the first time around. Well-meaning family members and friends may ask you when you plan on giving your child a new brother or sister, which can be especially frustrating when attempts to become pregnant have been unsuccessful. A secondary infertility diagnosis can catch you off guard and cause severe emotional distress, but here are some things to remember:
  • Even in a couple's prime childbearing years, there is only a 20 to 25 percent chance of conception. If you are having issues getting pregnant, it doesn't necessarily mean you can't.
  • Most experts agree that women under the age of 35 shouldn't need to consult a doctor until there's been at least a full year of unprotected sex with no pregnancy. However, for women over the age of 35, a doctor should be consulted after 6 months.
  • If you are unable to conceive, there are options like fertility treatments, which will include lots of tests, injections, sonograms, and mood swings, in addition to a monetary investment. Establish a timeline and determine how long you will undergo the treatments if pregnancy doesn't occur within a reasonable amount of time.
  • If pregnancy is not likely to occur, allow yourself time to grieve and be sad, and also time to accept the situation. But remember, there are other options available.

Couple in the Park

Exploring Other Options

Couples dealing with secondary infertility who wish to provide a brother or sister for their firstborn have viable options. Adoption can be an amazing experience and provide a home for a child who is in need of a loving family environment. But for those couples who prefer to have a child who shares a genetic connection with their existing child and themselves, surrogacy may be a great solution.

Surrogacy agencies such as the Center for Surrogate Parenting offers services for those couples who are unable to conceive a child, even if they already have biological children resulting from previous healthy pregnancies.

Many of the parents we work with at CSP have waited years to have a child, and they've undergone extensive fertility testing and treatments, or they've been unable to carry a child to term. We understand the frustration and the wide range of emotions that accompany any infertility diagnosis. Determining the best option for your family is important, whether it is through adoption or surrogacy. Either way, it is crucial to read, ask questions, and research your decision. CSP has a wide range of surrogacy professionals available, specializing in the medical, psychological, and legal aspects of surrogacy, who can answer your questions.