Secondary infertility - what
steps should a couple now take?

There are many different contributing causes of secondary infertility. We will discuss some of these reasons and your next course of action.

secondary infertility couple and child daytime beach What does secondary infertility mean?

The definition for this term is - the inability for a couple to conceive, or to carry a pregnancy to term, following the birth of one or more biological children.

‘Infertility" is described as the failure to conceive after one year of regular unprotected sexual intercourse. If the woman is over 35 years old, then this time period changes to six months, so the sooner the issue is addressed the better. Males account for 40% of infertility issues and females 40%. A combination of both partners may account for 10%, and the other 10% of infertility cases are from unknown origins.

Couples are often caught totally unaware, when they start to realize that there may be a problem. After all, the last child came easily enough (often unexpectedly)! Shouldn’t the fact that you have produced a child once before, guarantee fertility? Sorry, but the answer is no. There are numerous factors that come into play for both partners, that could be the causes of secondary infertility. However there is some great fertility help available.

Most medical experts put down the number one cause of secondary infertility as - the fact that as we get older, we have been exposed to more lifestyle, diet and stress factors which in turn can effect our health.

Emotional aspect

There tends to be a lot of emotional heartache involved with secondary infertility, as the couple often feels a sense of guilt asking for a medical evaluation. They often feel like they won’t be taken seriously enough, after all there are other couples out there still trying for their first child. Do not feel bad about asking for help! You may be surprised to find out that there may be just as many secondary infertility cases, as there are ‘primary infertility’!

Secondary infertility can become the root cause of negative feelings such as isolation, guilt, stress or depression. Both partners may have very different ways of coping with this situation, and relationship problems may result. Try to understand that every person copes in very different ways. Often parents may feel like they are neglecting their existing child when they are so caught up in this situation of trying for a sibling.

It is essential to express your feelings so that you are not cooping up all those emotions within you. An overload of stress may contribute even more towards your fertility problems. You may find help by talking to friends, family, through your doctor or a counselor.

Causes of secondary infertility

The treatment of secondary infertility is similar to that of primary infertility. The first thing you must do, is to have a full medical evaluation done through your doctor (both the man and woman)! This should be mandatory as part of your preconception care care plan. There are many reasons for infertility, so elimination is the first step.

Doctors routine examinations for men and woman/age and physical changes

There are numerous aspects relating to the causes of secondary infertility. Time has passed since you had your last child, and there may have been a number of physical changes for either partner.

Examples may be - changes in weight, getting over an illness or infection, having had certain surgical procedures or taking any new prescription medications. Any of these issues may effect your fertility, either temporarily or more long term. For the woman, any previous pregnancy complications may also be a contributing factor towards conception difficulties.

The female age factor is becoming more prevalent these days, as it is now common to try for children later in life. A number of years may have passed since having your first child. The probability for pregnancy declines as a woman gets older (however this does not necessarily mean she can not get pregnant). There are options available to help with the chances of conception for older woman. For the woman, certain previous pregnancy complications, may also be a contributing factor towards conception difficulties.

As the years pass, the probability of acquiring any medical disorders/complications rises (with everyone unfortunately) and these could become major contributing reasons for infertility! These can go unnoticed at first (no obvious symptoms). This is why it is extremely important to have an update with your doctor!

Routine medical examinations plus diagnostic tests should be performed for both partners, as certain common medical conditions can interfere with your reproductive system. For example factors such as - hormonal imbalances, thyroid problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, or anemia, to name a few, so these need to be either ruled out, addressed or monitored. Your doctor may order other tests, such as ultrasounds if necessary.

Any medications need to be reviewed by your physician as part of your preconception plan, as some may interfere with the reproductive systems processes. Your physician may want to adjust your dosage, or change to another type of prescription if necessary for your fertility health.

Check with your pharmacist regarding any over the counter medications you may be taking. Let them know that you are trying to conceive and they will put you onto the safest product for you to use. The same conditions apply for any herbal medications you may be taking.

Disorders of the reproductive systems

Certain reproductive disorders (for either partner) may have developed since the birth of your last child, and these are often contributing causes of secondary infertility. The sooner any disorder is diagnosed the better, thus starting you on to the appropriate medications/treatments as soon as possible.

Most common for women are ovulation disorders, endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes or complications following an infection. Take note - there are some very good treatments available with today's medical knowledge.

Men may have seminal/sperm issues, blocked ducts, varicocele (enlarged veins in the scrotum) erectile dysfunction, or infections. As mentioned above there are excellent treatments available.

If you have not yet read our signs of infertility page, do so, as this has essential information regarding some of the most common symptoms that may contribute to fertility issues. If you have noticed any of theses ‘signs’ you must let your physician know as soon as possible, so they can give you a diagnosis or referral. You may need to see a urologist or a gynecologist.

In certain cases, your doctor may suggest referring either both, or just one of you onto a fertility clinic as they can perform ‘specialized medical evaluations’ and/or treatments. There are numerous methods available to help both men and women. Assisted reproductive technologies are one of today’s medical triumphs, aiding many couples with their dream of having a baby.

Sperm quality

As a male ages, there are different diet, lifestyle, and toxin factors that can cause complications with sperm count and quality, and this has become one of the biggest reasons for infertility for men. Have a read about what the parameters of ‘normal’ sperm/semen should be under our sperm analysis page. This evaluation is always recommended, as it is non-evasive and gives fast results.

These tests can be performed through your doctor, fertility specialist, or at home through sperm analysis test kits that are now available for basic checks. With the use of home test kits we always advise, that if a poor sperm analysis test result is shown, for you to discuss this with your physician. Further investigation may be required. This is very insightful information, as having an analysis can provide doctors with a wealth of information regarding what may be going on within your reproductive system.

Guys, whether medical intervention is required or not, we also suggest looking at our page on how to increase sperm count and quality. Even if you or your partner do require any further treatment, it is still a great idea to make sure you are taking all the positive steps to help restore your fertility by looking after yourself.

Lifestyle factors

secondary infertility couple and child beach sunset Surprisingly ‘unexplained infertility’ is a common diagnosis from doctors, and this simply means that no identifiable medical explanation has been found.

There are certain lifestyle issues that can affect fertility health and throw out hormone balance. These topics include stress, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, alcohol consumption, smoking, caffeine, plus other circumstances.

It seems that when we were young, we got away with leading these unhealthiest of lifestyles! Unfortunately, as the years pass, we become more prone to the effects of these not so healthy day to day factors. Lifestyle is one of the biggest hidden reasons for infertility!

Read about these issues under our fertility problems and fertility diet sections of this website, as it is full of important information. With some knowledge, you will be able to make some positive lifestyle changes, thus helping increase your chances of conception.

In today's society, different aspects of our environment are now posing a threat to our fertility. You can read more about these extremely important issues in our environmental health hazards page. In the time period since you had your last child, you probably have been exposed to all sorts of hormone disrupting chemicals. These can contribute significantly to fertility problems.

Men or women that work in particular industries, can be at a higher risk of chemical or heavy metal exposure, and this is certainly a major contributor to secondary infertility.

Make sure that all health and safety regulations are up to date with your place of employment, and use all the safety gear necessary to protect yourself. Have yourself tested for heavy metals if you think you may have been exposed.

A course of detoxification is also a recommendation to help rid your body of all those unwanted nasty toxins and heavy metals that can accumulate in your system.

Extra measures - Fertility supplements, ovulation timing and sperm friendly lubricants

Fertility supplements are highly recommended to help boost fertility levels for both men and women. Men and women need different distinct vitamins and minerals to aid their fertility health. Always check with your doctor regarding any supplements and existing medications you may be taking, so to avoid any adverse reactions between the two.

Since the chances of conceiving at a younger age are higher, you may find that now you will need a lot more precise planning and preparation to improve your chances.

This will involve ovulation timing (making sure you are having sex around your most fertile time of the woman’s cycle). If you are using personal lubricants, make sure that you are only using sperm friendly lubricants. Most lubricants can inhibit the sperm from reaching the egg, therefore a specific lubricant that is made for couples trying to conceive is essential.

We finish up here with an overview on secondary infertility -

  • Doctors check up for both partners
  • Evaluations to diagnose any potential health disturbances that may contribute towards conception difficulties
  • Review any medications you are currently taking
  • If necessary your doctor may refer either one or both of you on to a specialist
  • Preconception care plan
  • (regardless if you are seeking any further medical evaluations or fertility treatments)
  • Deal with any bad habits such as cigarettes, alcohol, recreational drug use, and limit caffeine intake
  • Detoxification, good nutrition, appropriate exercise and reduce stress (healthy lifestyle)!
  • Ovulation timing and sperm friendly lubricants

We hope all this information has helped you to understand some of the potential causes of secondary infertility, and the steps/measurments that you and your partner can now take.

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