Expanding your family is a personal and exciting journey. But for some couples trying to have a second child, unexpected challenges and complications can pop up that prevent pregnancy. This is a particularly stressful and emotional experience for the family since they likely did not have difficulty with the first pregnancy. This is the new, unknown territory of infertility. In the next few paragraphs, we will talk about what secondary infertility is, explore the reasons why secondary infertility happens, and potential treatment options to treat this issue.
What is Secondary Infertility
Secondary infertility occurs when you successfully get pregnant and have trouble conceiving again. Despite actively trying for 12 months or more if your under age 35 or six months over age 35, you’re unable to get pregnant or stay pregnant for your second pregnancy. To be considered secondary infertility, the first pregnancy must have occurred without fertility assistance such as IVF.
Why Does Secondary Infertility Happen
Remarkably the causes of Secondary Infertility are nearly the same as Primary Infertility, which is difficulty getting pregnant the first time. About 10% of women of childbearing age have problems initially getting or staying pregnant and Secondary Infertility is known to happen just as often as Primary Infertility. Also, secondary infertility affects men and women equally as the cause is usually the same, regardless of whether it is the first pregnancy or second pregnancy. The common causes of infertility are::
- Ovarian reserve usually as a result of age
- Problems with the sperm such as low count, low motility, or structure
- Damaged or blocked fallopian tubes creating “plumbing issues” preventing the sperm and egg from meeting, or the embryo traveling down to the uterus.
- Endometriosis – A disorder where tissue similar to the uterus lining grows outside of the uterus, this affects as many as 25% of all infertile women
- Uterine conditions
- Uterine fibroids: Small, noncancerous tumors in your uterus
- Uterine polyps: Polyps/growths in the endometrial lining of your uterus
- Uterine cancer: Cancer or precancerous conditions of your uterus
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is a hormonal problem for women, the women rarely or never ovulate, have high levels of androgens, and other hormonal abnormalities
- Excessive weight gain in both men and women
- Lifestyle factors including smoking and heavy alcohol use
- Certain medications
Issues associated specifically to Secondary Infertility includes new conditions that may affect the mother’s health, or issues resulting from the first delivery, such as changes resulting from a C-section scar
Is Secondary Infertility Treatable and What are the Treatment Options
While secondary infertility is surprising and frustrating to many couples after having a seemingly normal first pregnancy, there are treatment options available. There are multiple types of treatment for both men and women and doctors agree that the earlier the couple seeks help, the better. The treatment options include:
- Initiating Ovulation – an oral medication, Clomid or Letrizole that get the hormones to produce eggs in women with ovulation problems.
- Uterine surgery – clears unwanted growths in the uterus like scar tissue, polyps, and fibroids, C-section scar issues that impact fertility.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) – a procedure in which eggs are surgically retrieved from the uterus, fertilized in a lab with sperm, and then the eggs are put back into the uterus.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) – a procedure in which sperm is inserted directly into a woman’s uterus, often used when men have low sperm count or poor sperm quality.
- Medications and Supplements – For example,blood thinning medications or steroids. Low dose aspirin, higher dose folic acid, CoQ10, and others.
Dealing with infertility can be emotionally challenging for any couple, especially when dealing with the struggles of getting or staying pregnant a second time. The good news is that there are a variety of treatment options available for both men and women dealing with secondary infertility. Understanding how emotional and stressful this experience can be, our dedicated team at Fertility Partnership is committed to offering our expertise and compassion. Our mission is to support couples through the challenges of their pregnancy journey, offering understanding and guidance every step of the way.