What Is Secondary Infertility?
Secondary infertility is when you have difficulty conceiving (becoming pregnant) after you’ve already had one or more children. Doctors diagnose infertility when couples or individuals have been trying to get pregnant for at least 12 months if the female partner carrying the pregnancy is under 35 and at least six months if the female partner carrying the pregnancy is over 35.
Primary vs. Secondary Infertility
Primary infertility is when you’re having difficulty conceiving for the first time. Secondary infertility is when you’re having difficulty conceiving but have had children before.
How Common Is Secondary Infertility?
Infertility affects one in six couples. Secondary infertility may be more common than it used to be simply because people are having children at older ages. People are inherently older when they have their second or third baby than they had their first.
Causes of Secondary Infertility
Advancing maternal age may cause secondary infertility. Advancing maternal age simply means you’re an older woman than when you were pregnant the first time. Medically, advanced maternal age (AMA) is when the pregnant person is 35 or older.
You may also have trouble with secondary infertility if you have a new partner who has problems affecting their fertility. Other common causes of secondary infertility include ovulation disorders affecting female partners:
Secondary Infertility Symptoms
You usually don’t experience any signs or symptoms of secondary infertility. The most reliable way to know if you’re fertile is to try getting pregnant. However, if you are a woman with a condition that can affect fertility, you may experience symptoms such as irregular or absent menstrual periods.
Secondary Infertility in Men vs. Women
Men and women can experience secondary infertility. Specialists start with a semen analysis to assess male infertility. Men may experience changes in erectile or ejaculatory function that make it harder to conceive. They may also experience health changes that affect their fertility:
When to See a Fertility Specialist
You may want to see a fertility specialist right away if you struggled with primary infertility and want to have another child. If you struggled with primary infertility, you are also at risk for secondary infertility.
You should also see a fertility specialist if you are a woman who is struggling to get pregnant under the following conditions:
- You are approaching or over 40.
- You experience irregular periods.
- You have had significant health changes, such as major surgeries, new diagnoses, or large weight changes since having your first child.
Find a Fertility Specialist
How Is Secondary Infertility Diagnosed?
Seeing a fertility specialist is the first step to getting started with fertility diagnosis and treatment. During your first visit, your specialist will ask you and your partner questions about your lives and health:
- Health history, including past pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or surgeries
- Lifestyle habits, including alcohol and tobacco use
Then, you will both get blood work to check your hormones and overall health. Your provider also may recommend tests:
- Imaging of the ovaries or uterus for women
- Semen analysis for men
Secondary Infertility Treatment Options
Depending on your test results, your specialist will likely recommend one or more treatments:
- Ovulation induction to help women release an egg
- Superovulation to increase how many eggs women release during ovulation
- Egg donation to provide women with healthy donor eggs
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) to place sperm in the uterus
- In vitro fertilization (IVF) to fertilize eggs in a laboratory setting
- Testicular sperm extraction (TESE), microsurgical TESE, or testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) to retrieve sperm in cases of male fertility
There are important differences between IUI and IVF, though the two processes are often confused.
Schedule an Appointment
Call 801-581-3834 to schedule an appointment with the Utah Center for Reproductive Medicine or request a consultation.