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Secondary Infertility: Why it Happens

Katlyn Joy |19, September 2011


Secondary Infertility: Why it Happens

Parents often assume if they had no trouble conceiving their first child, subsequent pregnancies should be as simple. After all, having a baby without any special treatments proves they have no fertility issues, right?

Wrong. Secondary infertility, or the inability to have a baby after already giving birth to one or more children without fertility drugs or treatments is not rare. In fact, an estimated three million American couples are struggling with secondary infertility.

If you got pregnant last time right away when trying and so far you've not been so lucky you should know the timing for seeking help is important.

  • If you and your partner are under 35, doctors recommend waiting a year before seeking help.
  • If you are over 35, give it six months.
  • If you are 40, you should speak with your ob-gyn when you decide to start trying to conceive.
  • For couples with a history of miscarriages, pelvic inflammatory disease or problems relating to the menstrual cycle or low sperm count, seek help at the start of trying to get pregnant as well.

Why Secondary Infertility Happens

You may have suffered some undiagnosed fertility issues when you got pregnant before and just got lucky without even knowing it. Fertility problems that are culprits in primary infertility are often the problem with secondary infertility.

However, age is often a factor since by nature of it being a later pregnancy the parents are of course older this time out when trying to conceive. Yes, older sperm is less fertile sperm too. Age is not only a female factor. Fertility problems due to issues with the mother account for 40 percent. Those due to the father account for another 40 percent while the remaining 20 are either a combination of both or for reasons not determined.

  • Tubal problems
  • Ovulation abnormalities
  • Pelvic issues
  • Sperm problems
  • Irregular cycles
  • STI's and PID

African American women are more likely to experience secondary infertility than other races. Also, women over 40 are more likely to have difficulties having another successful pregnancy after one or more births.

One special issue for couples with secondary infertility is the problem of recurrent miscarriages. This agonizing problem may be addressed separately than other fertility issues. Physicians who cannot pinpoint any particular cause may well suggest lifestyle changes in an attempt to maximize fertility. This would include healthy eating and exercising resulting in a normal body weight. Not smoking or drinking and reducing stress would also be recommended. The father should likewise quit smoking and drinking as well and maintain a healthy body weight.

Emotional Impact of Secondary Infertility

Since often struggles with infertility come as a surprise to couples with a child, the shock may be difficult to deal with. Some couples got pregnant easily the first time and so put off trying until they were sure they were ready for another child only to find the months rolling by with no pregnancy.

Support may be harder to find when you want another child. Infertile couples may be less sympathetic since they have yet to achieve a pregnancy at all. Friends and family members may even chide a couple struggling with secondary infertility and tell them they should be grateful for the child they already have.

As a result some couples dealing with secondary infertility may have feelings of guilt as if they don't appreciate the gift of the child they already have. They may feel greedy for wanting another healthy child.

However, wanting a child or more than one child to complete a family is not a greedy mindset. Couples who find the stress emotionally trying might want to consider a support group specifically for those struggling with subsequent pregnancies. RESOLVE has such groups. Private counseling may help too.

Whatever the process, one positive should be noted. Couples with secondary infertility are more likely than couples who never had a baby to have success in their fertility attempts. If you've had a baby before, your chances are better that you will succeed again.

Related Articles

Unexplained Infertility

Does Infertility Have Symptoms?

Coping With the Frustrations of Infertility

Infertility Treatment Funding Resources

Luteal Phase Defect


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