Are you trying for your second child and unable to attain pregnancy or carry the child for the whole pregnancy term? You might be dealing with a bundle of emotions such as anger, hopelessness, grief, confusion, or frustration that secondary infertility can bring along.
Infertility is when the couples cannot conceive due to conditions of the reproductive system. It can be distinguished into primary and secondary infertility. A previous child’s birth distinguishes secondary infertility from primary infertility. Almost 12% of the people around the world have difficulty conceiving for the second time. It can be due to fertility problems in men, women or both.
If you are having trouble conceiving for the second time or have been diagnosed with secondary infertility with no primary infertility problems, this article can suffice most of your doubts as to why and how secondary infertility can occur and know your chances to be a part of secondary infertility success stories.
Table of Contents
Feel free to skip ahead if one topic catches your eye:
- What is Secondary Infertility?
- What are the factors responsible for Secondary Infertility?
- How is Primary Infertility different from Secondary Infertility?
- Can I get Pregnant If I Have Secondary Infertility?
- When Should I See a Doctor?
- Treatment of Secondary Infertility
1. What is Secondary Infertility?
Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant or carry the child for the entire pregnancy term after previously giving birth to a child without fertility medications or treatments. Both men and women can have fertility issues leading to secondary fertility.
Secondary infertility might occur due to changes in the reproductive system or due to any other unknown factor. Changes in fertility after childbirth or recurrent pregnancy loss (where the woman is unable to carry the child for the entire pregnancy term) are conditions leading to secondary infertility. However, diagnosis of secondary infertility is done only after repeatedly trying to conceive for more than 6 months to one year. If you’re under age 35, and after six months if you’re over 35.
2. What are the factors responsible for Secondary Infertility?
According to statistics, one-third of the secondary fertility issues are due to male infertility factors, one-third are because of female infertility, and the rest one-third are a combination of both or due to an unknown cause. However, increased age, complications during the previous pregnancy, medications, surgery, excessive alcohol, smoking, and many more are added factors of secondary infertility.
Some of the major factors causing secondary infertility in males are:
- Varicocele: Varicocele is the enlargement of veins in the testicles leading to its swelling. In such conditions, excessive blood flow can cause the increased temperature in the testicles affecting sperm quality and quantity.
- Blockage of ducts: Blockage of ducts carrying sperms can also cause low sperm count.
- Infections: Infections such as tuberculosis, mumps, smallpox, certain sexually transmitted disorders can affect sperm production.
- Oligospermia: Also known as Low Sperm count. There are various treatments of oligospermia like ART, infection treatment, surgical sperm aspiration.
- Problems with prostate gland: Conditions such as enlargement of prostate glands, tumors of prostate glands can hamper the sperm count. Surgical removal of the prostate gland too can cause backward flow of semen.
- Environmental factors: Unhealthy diet, exposure to radiation, chemicals, pesticides, etc can impact sperm quality as well as sperm numbers.
- Other factors: Psychological stress, medications, alcohol abuse, smoking, unhealthy dietary habits are other factors that can induce infertility in men.
Potential factors causing secondary infertility in females are:
- Quality and quantity of eggs: The age of a woman can impact the quality and quantity of eggs. After the age of 40, the number of eggs present in the ovaries becomes less and the eggs can have problems with genetic integrity. Sometimes, when age is not a concern, genetic variations, prior surgery or treatment might affect the production of quality eggs.
- Blockage of fallopian tubes: Blocked fallopian tubes that carry the eggs to the uterus can cause fertility issues.
- Problems with the uterus: Conditions of the uterus include scarring during a c-section, dilation, and curettage (D and C), or a retained placenta can cause pelvic adhesions. Statistics show that almost 20% of the women who have had a C-section show difficulty with getting pregnant for the second time. The presence of noncancerous growths such as polyps or fibroids can also interfere with pregnancy.
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis leads to the growth of the uterine lining outside the uterus. Endometriosis can cause infertility, if not treated.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): Women with PCOS endocrine disorder are characterized by excessive androgens where the ovaries fail to release eggs regularly can cause problems in conceiving. Women most often encounter questions like- can pcos cause infertility, etc.
3. How is Primary Infertility different from Secondary Infertility?
Infertility is the condition defined as not being able to conceive despite trying for more than 12 months. Infertility is categorized into two types namely:
- Primary fertility
- Secondary fertility
Primary infertility is when the couple is unable to attain pregnancy for the first time. The conditions causing primary fertility are similar to that of secondary infertility. The only difference is when the couple has had a successful pregnancy but is not able to get pregnant again despite continuous trying for more than 6 to 12 months.
4.Can I get Pregnant If I Have Secondary Fertility?
The answer is YES, you can get pregnant for the second time even though you are experiencing infertility signs and symptoms. You will need to assess the exact cause of secondary infertility with the help of a fertility specialist.
It is observed that older women are more likely to produce eggs with chromosomal abnormalities that can impact the embryo quality as well. Similarly, age can also affect the sperm numbers and quality in men. Hence, If you are planning for a second child, it is advised to start early to have a better chance of successful fertility treatment and in turn a fruitful pregnancy.
5. When Should I See a Doctor?
Couples above the age of 35 unable to attain pregnancy for the second time even after having unprotected intercourse for over 6 months, must visit the doctor for further analysis.
Additionally, a woman with irregular menstruation, PCOS, endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, prior surgery, or recurrent pregnancy loss planning for a second child must see a fertility specialist.
Even men who have undergone prior surgery of the reproductive organs, or have a low sperm count should check with a fertility expert on ways to improve fertility for second childbirth.
The doctor will review the previous medical history, analyze the reasons for infertility and provide infertility treatment solutions accordingly.
6. Treatment of Secondary Infertility
The treatment begins after a thorough and accurate diagnosis that includes a pelvic exam, blood tests, ovulation reserve testing, HSG, and necessary ultrasound. Treatment options for secondary infertility are:
- Secondary infertility management can be done through a series of hormonal medications such as clomiphene to induce ovulation in women.
- Certain antioxidants and anti-aging medications can improve the semen quality in men.
- Surgery to treat infertility in women can be either done to repair structural anomalies or remove scar tissue, polyps, fibroids, etc.
- Surgery to treat infertility in men can be done either to correct a varicocele or to extract sperm through microsurgery.
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is an artificial insemination technique where the sperm is transferred into the uterus after washing at the time of ovulation. Sperm donors can also be used in IUI for men with insufficient sperm numbers .
- Assisted Reproductive Technique (ART): In-vitro fertilization (IVF) is an ART-driven procedure that starts with hormonal injections to stimulate the ovaries. The eggs are surgically retrieved and the sperms can be obtained through normal ejaculation or aspired surgically. The retrieved eggs and sperms are let to fertilize in an incubated laboratory condition. The embryos produced are allowed to develop which are later transferred into the woman’s uterus for implantation and development. Sometimes, frozen embryos transfer can be used in IVF to improve the possibilities of a successful IVF.
This procedure allows the use of donor eggs/sperms or embryos that can help increase the pregnancy success. IVF also enables the inclusion of a surrogate (gestational carrier) who can carry the child for the full pregnancy term in case the patient herself is unable to carry the pregnancy.
One can get pregnant even if diagnosed with secondary infertility because secondary infertility doctor’s treatment options with the cutting-edge technology of ART have helped many create secondary infertility success stories.
OMYA is your destination where advanced technologies culminate with experienced hands to deliver the best outcomes. Our well-established infrastructure and state-of-the-art techniques provide a wide range of treatment services including secondary infertility treatment.