You aren’t alone. In fact, approximately 3 million women in the USA have faced the reality of secondary infertility.
Secondary Infertility is defined as “the inability to become pregnant, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children.” In this post, we will cover the various causes, treatments, and resources for those afflicted by secondary infertility.
There are a number of possible explanations for secondary infertility. Some explanations are detailed below, but it’s important to speak to your physician to confirm the diagnosis.
One of the common causes for secondary infertility is a woman’s reproductive age. Even a woman in her late thirties may experience infertility, despite successfully conceiving and delivering a child only a few years earlier. As a woman ages, her egg quality and quantity decrease, leading to a higher chance of miscarriage and infertility.
Women aren’t the only ones who experience changes in fertility over time. Men can also experience infertility, as they produce less sperm as they age. A decrease in sperm quality can also be caused by certain medications a man takes, or from simple health changes. A semen analysis is one of the most common tests to determine a man’s fertility.
Smoking can also be a common cause of infertility. According to ReproductiveFacts.org, the parent education website of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, male and female smokers have twice the infertility rates of nonsmokers. In the same paper, female smokers utilizing IVF treatments produce fewer eggs and have 30% lower pregnancy rates compared to nonsmokers using IVF.
Some women may have complications with the structure of their pelvic area or fallopian tubes. Abdominal surgeries and endometriosis are just a few of the causes for pelvic adhesions - which can complicate the egg in its transit to the fallopian tube. A woman might also develop Asherman’s syndrome, which is uterine scarring from a dilation and curettage procedure after miscarriage or birth, or or other adhesions from a previous delivery, which can complicate pregnancy.
Excessive weight gain may lead to complications with ovulation. The more weight a woman gains, the more resistant to insulin she may become, which can lead to elevated testosterone production from the ovaries. Weight gain can also affect male fertility, as sperm can be affected by the increased estrogen production.
Oral medication such as Clomiphene citrate (Clomid) or injectable gonadotropins can be used to enhance fertility and increase the production of eggs.
For women with a diminished ovarian reserve, they can choose to use donor eggs. For more information, please read the egg donation section on ConceiveAbilities’ website, or check out some of our blog posts on egg donation.
Of course, intercourse is not the only way to attempt a pregnancy. In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a popular alternative for many women who have difficulty conceiving for any number of reasons. IVF can still be successful despite structural issues with a woman’s pelvis or fallopian tubes, and will increase the likelihood of pregnancy. ConceiveAbilities can provide support and guidance building your family through IVF procedures.
Discovering you have secondary infertility is never easy. The hope for a second child might be replaced with a feeling of shock and confusion. Some women may carry guilt over not being able to provide a second child for their spouse, or a sibling for their firstborn. It can be equally difficult when your friends and family members tell you “just give it time,” or “at least you have one child.” While the reasons for secondary infertility are often unknown, some women may blame themselves for certain lifestyle decisions or for waiting too long.
Remember: this is not your fault. It’s hard to fully grasp the reality of secondary infertility, especially when many around you can’t understand what you’re going through. It’s important to give yourself time to heal and accept. Surround yourself with people that love and care about you: your child, your spouse, your close friends and family. Be patient with their understanding about the challenges of infertility, and educate them on what you know. Your doctor and fertility clinic staff can also provide support when you need it.
For more information on how egg donation or surrogacy can help in achieving pregnancy for those experiencing secondary infertility, visit the Parents section on the ConceiveAbilities website.