Ever heard of secondary infertility? Here’s what it really means

Published on: 23 February 2022, 12:44 pm IST
Not many have heard of secondary infertility. It is a condition in which women are unable to conceive, after the first pregnancy.
Dr Rohit Gutgutia
Fertility changes with age. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Not many couples are aware of secondary infertility. This is a condition, wherein a woman fails to conceive after one successful pregnancy. This condition shares many of the same causes of primary infertility. Let’s delve deeper into the subject:

All about secondary infertility

People suffering from secondary infertility have trouble getting pregnant after successfully conceiving once before. It is the inability to get pregnant and carry it to full term. Infertility is secondary only if the previous pregnancy occurred naturally, without the support of any fertility treatments and medications.

On the contrary, primary infertility is the inability to get pregnant after 6-12 months of trying over the age of 35 years. Secondary infertility may occur in both males and females, and the causes of the condition are similar to that of primary infertility.

What are the causes of secondary infertility?

Some of the common causes of secondary infertility among women are:

1. Blocked fallopian tubes:

Blockage can occur in the fallopian tubes due to sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia. Due to this blockage, fertilization of the egg and the sperm will not happen, causing infertility.

2. Quantity and quality of eggs:

Among women, fertility starts declining after 35-40 years of age. The number of eggs will decrease and the remaining eggs might not be of good quality. This can cause chromosomal problems. Younger women can also carry bad-quality eggs due to autoimmune or genetic disorders.

Quality of a woman’s egg can be a factor in secondary infertility. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

3. Damaged reproductive organs:

Conditions like fibroids and endometriosis can cause damage to the reproductive organs. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid disease can also produce low levels of progesterone, resulting in irregular menstrual cycles, problems in ovulation, and infertility.

4. Lifestyle changes:

Weight gain or obesity can affect fertility.

5. Age:

Due to advanced maternal age, successful pregnancies are less likely to happen. As women age, their fertility declines. Not only this, but women can also develop health conditions that can reduce their chances to conceive.

Also Read: Infertility isn’t always about age. These factors can be responsible too

Reach out to an expert for your troubles. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Treatment for secondary infertility

Your doctor will suggest making some lifestyle changes, if you have successfully conceived before. Also, the doctor can prescribe some medications like clomiphene and letrozole to improve ovulation. If these solutions do not work well, you can approach a fertility specialist who can recommend the right treatment for you. Treatments like in-vitro fertilization (IVF) or intrauterine insemination (IUI) can help conceive a child. These treatment options have high success rates but are costly and invasive.

Dealing with the emotional impact of secondary infertility

It can be devastating for couples to deal with secondary infertility. The thought of not being able to complete a family can cause distress and anxiety. During this time, they require emotional support from family and friends. Fertility treatments can also be physically and mentally tiring. It is common for couples to feel isolated and anxious. Therefore, couples should seek help from support groups and therapists to cope with the loss.

Here are a few other tips which can help cope the grief of secondary infertility

* Communicate with your partner about how you feel about infertility. Plan about moving forward and working together.
* Do not blame your partner as infertility is in no one’s hands.
* Focus on what you can control. Keep self-care in mind to manage stress and live a healthy lifestyle.
* Share your stories with other women with similar experiences. Know what they have done for successful pregnancies.
* Keep in touch with your healthcare provider about the next steps. Ask your doctor about several options for successful pregnancies and know what are your chances of conceiving.

Dr Rohit Gutgutia

Dr Rohit Gutgutia, Medical Director at Nova IVF Fertility, Eastern India

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