Secondary infertility: what is it?

Susan Fernandez March 03 2022

What is infertility?

It is the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected sex. It may also be defined as the failure to carry a pregnancy to its full term. There are many possible causes of infertility, including ovulation disorders, uterine or cervical abnormalities, endometriosis, fallopian tube damage or blockage, pelvic inflammatory disease, age, obesity, smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, and exposure to certain chemicals or medications.

It happens because of a problem with one or more parts of the reproductive system. About 20 percent of couples have difficulty conceiving, and about half of these cases are due to infertility. In most cases, infertility is treated with medication or surgery. If you are trying to conceive and have been unsuccessful after a year of unprotected intercourse, you should consult your doctor to determine if you are infertile and need treatment.

In most cases, infertility appears to be due to a combination of factors, rather than a single cause. When only one partner is infertile, the chances of conceiving are about 15 percent per month. If both partners are infertile, the chances of conceiving are about 5 percent per month.

What is secondary infertility?

It is the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after you have already given birth to one or more children. It may also be called recurrent pregnancy loss if you have had two or more miscarriages.

Secondary infertility is just as common as primary infertility, occurring in about 6 percent of couples who are trying to conceive. The causes of secondary infertility are similar to those of primary infertility and may include ovulation disorders, uterine or cervical abnormalities, endometriosis, fallopian tube damage or blockage, pelvic inflammatory disease, age, obesity, smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, and exposure to certain chemicals or medications.

Secondary infertility is often caused by a combination of factors. When only one partner is infertile, the chances of conceiving are about 15 percent per month. If both partners are infertile, the chances of conceiving are about 5 percent per month. If you are experiencing secondary infertility, you should consult your doctor to determine if you need treatment. Treatment options for secondary infertility are the same as those for primary infertility.

Usually, secondary infertility is the result of a problem with the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or uterus. In some cases, it may be caused by a problem with the man’s sperm. Secondary infertility may also be due to a combination of these factors. Sometimes giving birth to the first baby may lead to problems with the reproductive organs that cause secondary infertility.

Factors that may contribute to secondary infertility include:

  • Ovulation disorders: These are the most common cause of secondary infertility. Ovulation disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), age, weight, stress, and certain medications.
  • Uterine or cervical abnormalities: Uterine fibroids, uterine polyps, or an incompetent cervix (a condition in which the cervix opens too early during pregnancy) can all cause secondary infertility.
  • Endometriosis: This is a condition in which the lining of the uterus grows outside of the uterus. It can cause pelvic pain and bleeding and may lead to fertility problems.
  • Fallopian tube damage or blockage: This can be caused by pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, or surgery.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease: This is an infection of the reproductive organs that can damage the fallopian tubes and ovaries.
  • Age: Age is a factor in both male and female infertility. A woman’s fertility begins to decline at about age 35. A man’s fertility begins to decline at about age 40.
  • Obesity: Obesity can cause hormonal imbalances that lead to ovulation disorders. It can also cause problems with the uterine lining, making it less receptive to implantation.
  • Smoking: Smoking can damage the Fallopian tubes and reduce fertility.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases: These can damage the reproductive organs and lead to infertility.
  • Exposure to certain chemicals or medications: Some chemicals and medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause infertility.

Facts and myths about secondary infertility

You may have heard some myths about secondary infertility. Here are some of the most common ones and the facts behind them:

Myth: If you’ve had one child, you can’t have anymore.

Fact: This is not true. Secondary infertility is just as common as primary infertility. That is because the same factors that cause primary infertility can also cause secondary infertility.

Myth: If you’ve had a miscarriage, you can’t have any more children.

Fact: This is not true. Most women who have had a miscarriage will go on to have a healthy pregnancy. Our bodies are incredible and are designed to heal and grow new life.

Myth: If you’ve had fertility problems, you’ll never be able to have a baby.

Fact: This is not true. Many couples who have experienced fertility problems go on to have healthy babies. With the help of modern medicine, anything is possible. Infertility is treated in most cases, though sometimes it can’t be reversed.

Myth: There’s nothing you can do to improve your fertility.

Fact: This is not true. There are many things you can do to improve your fertility. Making lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, and reducing stress, can make a big difference. There are also many fertility treatments available that can help you conceive.

Myth: If you use contraception, you won’t be able to get pregnant when you want to.

Fact: This is not true. Birth control only delays pregnancy, it doesn’t cause infertility. In fact, birth control can actually improve your chances of getting pregnant by giving your body a break from the hormones involved in ovulation.

If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, see your doctor. They can help you find out if there’s a problem and offer treatment options. Secondary infertility is just as treatable as primary infertility, so don’t give up hope. With the right help, you can have the family you’ve always wanted.

Can infertility be treated and how?

The good news is that most cases of infertility can be treated. The success of treatment depends on the cause of infertility, the age and health of the parents, and other factors.

Ovulation induction

This treatment is used to stimulate ovulation in women who are not ovulating regularly. Medications such as clomiphene citrate or gonadotropins are often used for this purpose. Induction treatment includes Clomiphene citrate and Gonadotropins.

Clomiphene citrate: This medication is taken by mouth and stimulates ovulation in about 70 percent of women who take it. Common side effects include hot flashes, mood swings, and headaches.

Gonadotropins: These are injected hormones that stimulate ovulation in about 80 to 90 percent of women who take them. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, bloating, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). This is a condition in which the ovaries become enlarged and may leak fluid into the abdomen. OHSS can be serious and sometimes requires hospitalization.

Ovulation induction will take up to 3 cycles to achieve pregnancy.

IVF

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is a procedure in which eggs are removed from the woman’s ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a lab. The fertilized eggs are then placed back into the woman’s uterus to grow and develop.

IVF is often used when other treatments have failed. It is also used for women with blocked or damaged Fallopian tubes, women who have had their ovaries removed, or men with low sperm counts. The process is as follows:

  • Medications are given to the woman to stimulate egg production.
  • Eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a lab.
  • The fertilized eggs are placed back into the woman’s uterus.

If implantation and pregnancy occur, the baby will develop in the uterus just as it would with a natural pregnancy. IVF has a high success rate, but it is also a costly and invasive procedure. The average cost of one IVF cycle is about $12,000.

Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

This is a procedure in which sperm is inserted into the uterus through a catheter. It is often used with ovulation induction to increase the chances of conception. You will need to make sure that you have a sperm sample ready for the procedure. The sperm will be washed and concentrated before being inserted into the uterus through a catheter.

IUI is less invasive and less expensive than IVF, but it also has a lower success rate. Still, this procedure will take up to 3 cycles to achieve pregnancy. IUI is less costly and invasive than IVF, but it has a lower success rate. The average cost of IUI is about $500.

Surgery

Surgery may be needed to repair damage to the reproductive organs or to remove blockages in the fallopian tubes. Surgery can also be used to treat OHSS. There are a number of different surgical procedures that can be used to treat infertility. The type of surgery depends on the cause of infertility. Some common procedures include:

  • Laparoscopy: This is a procedure in which a small camera is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. This allows the surgeon to see inside the abdomen and identify any problems.
  • Tubal ligation reversal: This is a procedure in which the Fallopian tubes are reconnected after they have been blocked or removed.
  • Microsurgery: This is a procedure in which delicate surgery is used to repair damage to the reproductive organs.
  • Hysteroscopy: This is a procedure in which a small telescope is inserted into the uterus through the vagina. This allows the surgeon to see inside the uterus and identify any problems.
  • Endometrial ablation: This is a procedure in which the lining of the uterus is destroyed. This may be done to treat conditions such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids.

All of these surgeries carry a risk of complications, such as infection or bleeding. You should talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of each type of surgery before deciding if it is right for you.

Donor eggs or sperm

If secondary infertility is due to a problem with the woman’s eggs or the man’s sperm, donor eggs or sperm may be used in assisted reproductive technologies (ART) such as IVF.

The eggs or sperm are obtained from a donor who has undergone screening for infectious diseases and genetic disorders. The eggs are fertilized with the man’s sperm in a lab, and the resulting embryos are placed in the woman’s uterus. Donor eggs or sperm may also be used in IUI. In this case, the donor sperm is injected into the woman’s uterus through a catheter.

If you are using donor eggs or sperm, you will need to undergo counseling to help you understand the risks and benefits of this type of treatment. You will also need to make sure that you are comfortable with the idea of having a child that is not genetically related to you.

Medications

Hormone therapy may be needed to correct hormonal imbalances that are causing ovulation disorders. Clomiphene citrate (Clomid, Serophene) is a common medication used to treat ovulation disorders. It works by stimulating the release of eggs from the ovaries.

Gonadotropins are another type of medication that can be used to stimulate ovulation. These drugs are injected under the skin and work by causing the ovaries to produce multiple eggs.

Metformin (Glucophage) is a medication that is sometimes used to treat PCOS. It works by decreasing the amount of insulin in the body, which can help to regulate ovulation.

Do you really want a second child?

Sometimes, couples who are struggling with secondary infertility need to ask themselves if they really want a second child. This is a difficult decision to make, and there is no right or wrong answer. You should explore all of your treatment options and talk to your partner about what is best for you as a couple.

If you decide not to have another child, there are other options available to you, such as adoption or foster care. You may also want to consider counseling to help you deal with your feelings of grief and loss.

Summary

Secondary infertility can be a difficult and emotionally trying experience. There are many different treatment options available, but not all of them will work for every couple. It is important to explore all of your options and to make the decision that is best for you as a couple. If you decide not to have another child, there are other options available to you, such as adoption or foster care. counseling can also help you deal with your feelings of grief and loss.