Secondary Infertility: What you need to know


Are you having problems conceiving the second time? Than yes, it is secondary fertility that you are dealing with. It’s a state when a woman is unable to get pregnancy or to complete the full term after having one child. Though most of the time, primary fertility problems get more attention, more than 10 million across the world are suffering from secondary infertility problems. The couples undergoing this situation might confront a range of physical and emotional frustrations, despite the fact that they’ve been able to successfully reproduce in the past.

The case can be: A previously fertile partner is trying to have a child with a new spouse, or one or both partners in an existing relationship have developed fertility problems since their last child was conceived. For instance, a woman might have developed endometriosis (one of the most frequent causes of secondary infertility in women), irregular ovulation, or fallopian tube disease. Or a man might have had a decline in the concentration or motility of his sperm. Other factors can involve age (even five years can make a big difference in a woman’s fertility cycle and a man’s sperm count), scarring after childbirth, or stress, which can affect ovulation and sperm production.

Couples who have had a previous pregnancy often think of themselves as having “normal” fertility, but this isn’t always the case. That’s why it’s important for both the man and woman to have a complete infertility workup as soon as they feel they’re having trouble conceiving.

Why is secondary infertility so emotionally difficult?

Some couples are shocked and in disbelief when they find themselves unable to conceive a second child, particularly if they became pregnant easily, or accidentally, the first time. Other couples, who previously had problems with fertility, may be anxious to try again, and may feel greater pressure the second time around since they know it’s possible to have a baby. Still other couples may feel enormous guilt, or a sense of selfishness, for not providing a sibling for their only child, or for delaying a second pregnancy until it became “too late” to conceive.

On top of this, well-meaning friends and family members may unknowingly ask insensitive questions about when a couple is going to have another baby or why they’ve decided to only have one. They may also be less sensitive to a couple’s plight, saying things like “You’re lucky to have one child” or “Just relax. It will happen in time.” An infertile couple may find it stressful, too, to go through the rigors of testing and treatment when they have a small child at home to care for.

How can couples best cope with the situation?

Couples without children often choose to avoid pregnancy- or child-related activities, such as friends’ or relatives’ baby showers or first-birthday parties, in order to minimize their pain. But couples with secondary infertility often have young kids of their own and may find themselves surrounded by mothers who are pregnant or nursing, or by the younger siblings of their children’s friends. This, of course, makes it harder to sidestep the issue or to avoid their child’s questions about wanting a little sister or brother.

Like any infertile couple, those who are facing secondary infertility need empathy, validation, and support from their friends, family members, and fertility clinic staff. They also need time to grieve and accept their situation and whatever outcome it might produce. In time, some couples do go on to achieve a successful pregnancy, while others add to their family through adoption or accept their family size the way it is.

The bottom line is that secondary infertility can cause stress, sadness, frustration, and loss for many couples. If you and your spouse (or someone you know) is facing this condition, it’s important to learn all you can through reputable resources and organizations, and to attain the support you need to make the best decisions for you and your family.

Some of the facts about Secondary Infertility

The same factors responsible for primary fertility problems can also cause secondary infertility. These include:

Pelvic or uterine scarring

Blocked fallopian tubes


Defective ovulation

Being underweight or overweight


Excessive drinking

Poor sperm quality or quantity

Whatever the cause, the condition either developed or worsened since you gave birth. For example, complications during labor and delivery could have triggered a problem. Or, your fertility problems may be age-related if several years have passed since your first pregnancy.

Treatments for primary and secondary fertility problems are the same, and the first step is usually to get evaluated by a fertility specialist. If you haven’t become pregnant after one year of having frequent unprotected sex, or if you’re older than 35 and haven’t become pregnant after having frequent unprotected sex for six months, you may want to visit a fertility specialist.

You can see a specialist even sooner if you’re older than 30 and know you have a condition that could affect fertility, such as endometriosis or irregular menstrual cycles.

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