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What to Know about Secondary Infertility

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 again, and age can affect fertility. This can also lead to secondary infertility.

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. However, they may 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 children. More than 1 million couples are affected by this issue.

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. 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. 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 from previous surgeries and adhesion are other possible causes. 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 and health conditions like diabetes. Weight gain in men can increase estrogen production, which can also affect sperm production.

Dealing with secondary infertility

Secondary infertility can be an emotional and heart-wrenching experience. Well-meaning family members and friends may ask you when you plan on giving your child a new brother or sister. This 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% 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 should consult a doctor after 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. 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.

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.