What is Secondary Infertility?

Secondary infertility is a real problem that accounts for approximately 60% of the existing cases of infertility. Different from primary infertility, secondary infertility is defined as infertility affecting couples who have had at least one child previously. More than 3.3 million women in the U.S. alone suffer with secondary infertility, and the numbers are rising every year. Unfortunately, couples suffering with secondary infertility don't often get the help and support they need from doctors, friends and family because they aren't perceived as truly infertile since they've already had children.

Causes of Secondary Infertility

There are many reasons that may explain why a couple is suffering with secondary infertility. A woman's fertility can change or be affected after having a child, even if she had no problem becoming pregnant the first or second time. Infection such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) can cause damage to the fallopian tubes, making it difficult for fertilization to occur, or increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Weight gain and an unhealthy diet can also affect your fertility. Gaining even a small amount of weight can throw your hormones off balance, affecting your menstrual cycles. If you are not ovulating, or ovulating irregularly, it may also be difficult to get pregnant. Endometriosis and fibroids are also contributing factors to secondary infertility.

Age can contribute to secondary infertility as well. With more women waiting to have their first child until well into their 30s, your fertility may have decreased significantly in the years between your first pregnancy, and attempting your second. Research shows that a woman's fertility begins a steady decline even in your late 20s and early 30s. While this doesn't mean that you can't get pregnant, you may have a harder time conceiving and have an increased risk of miscarriage due to aging eggs. In addition to your fertility, your partner's fertility is also affected by age, thus contributing to secondary infertility.

Seeking Treatment

If you are under 35, you aren't considered to have fertility problems until you've tried unsuccessfully for at least a year to get pregnant. This means that you've been having regular, unprotected sex for at least 12 months. If you're over 35, you should seek the treatment of a doctor after six months of trying. Repeated miscarriages, infection and irregular cycles are all reasons to speak to your doctor earlier. Your doctor will conduct an assessment of your current health, as well as run tests on your reproductive tract. Depending on the cause of the secondary infertility, your doctor can recommend a variety of fertility treatments.

If you feel that you are having trouble, or you may have trouble getting pregnant, don't hesitate to speak with your doctor at anytime. In addition to medical assistance, find a support group or seek the support from other couples dealing with secondary infertility.

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