Understanding Secondary Infertility
If you’ve had a baby but are struggling to have another, you may be facing an unknown fertility issue. Secondary infertility is the inability to become pregnant or to carry a baby to term after previously successfully giving birth.
Secondary infertility shares many common causes with primary or unexplained infertility. If you have been having unprotected intercourse for over a year and haven’t conceived, both you and your partner may require medical evaluations.
Many couples with secondary infertility believe that if they “keep trying” they will eventually succeed. However, our bodies change over time. Your Ontario Fertility Network team can help determine the underlying diagnosis, and your options for treatment.
Causes of Secondary Infertility
If you suspect that you may have secondary infertility, it’s important to seek a medical opinion as soon as possible. Early detection is critical, as time is an important factor when it comes to effective treatment.
Secondary infertility can be surprising and stressful. It is common for those experiencing secondary infertility to not seek support or investigation. You do not have to cope alone or just “keep trying”. Our world-class fertility team will screen you for possible causes with a number of possible diagnostic tests in an effort to match you with a treatment plan that fits your unique needs..
Common causes of secondary infertility include:
- Fallopian tube abnormalities, ovulation disorders, endometriosis, PCOS or ovarian disorders
- Complications from prior pregnancy or surgery
- Possible changes in risk factors for you or your partner, such as age, weight and use of certain medications
- Diminished ovarian reserve or egg quality
- Uterine fibroids or polyps
- Male factor issues with sperm production, function, or ejaculatory problems
- Issues with quality and quantity of eggs in women (especially after age 40)
- Reduced testosterone in men
- Sexually transmitted diseases
How common is secondary infertility?
Approximately 10% of couples have secondary infertility, although many are not aware of their condition.
What are the success rates for treating secondary infertility?
The success rates for treating secondary infertility vary based upon the cause, age, and any risk factors for both partners. Some causes of infertility may be corrected by surgery or medication. Other situations require IVF treatment and/or IUI treatment.
Why does secondary infertility happen?
There are a variety of reasons that secondary infertility can happen after being fertile, such as complications from surgery or a pregnancy, issues with reproductive organs since the first pregnancy, cancer treatment, issues with ovulation, sperm production or ejaculation, hormonal changes, age, exposure to hazardous chemicals, HPV, etc. Our bodies change over time, as does our ability to reproduce.
How many (or types of) treatments will I need?
The number of treatments needed will depend entirely on the root cause of the fertility challenge and its treatment. Surgery or medication, for example, may be able to correct an issue. If IVF or IUI is recommended, then the number of cycles can vary from one couple to the next.
Will I need surgery if I have secondary infertility?
Depending on the cause of infertility, surgery may be able to help. Some causes of infertility require medication, while others cannot be reversed and may require IUI or IVF treatment to conceive.
Can C-sections increase the risk for secondary infertility?
There is a small percentage of women who have experienced complications with fertility due to C-section scarring. Your Ontario Fertility Network physician will discuss this and any related medical history with you during your fertility assessment.
Can men experience secondary infertility?
Yes, both men and women can experience fertility issues after successfully producing a child.
“Although I’m still new to the process so far I give it 5 stars. I started at the clinic a year ago for PCOS and a no ovulation diagnosis. I got medicated and they said whenever we wanted to talk further they were here for us. Fast forward a year later and we’ve had 3 miscarriages. When I called back to talk to the clinic again and start investigative tests…the nurses were incredible. Their ability to empathize with a terrible situation and encourage me has been truly the best. Dr. Browning has been awesome too and I love that he takes the least invasive approach first and thus far we have felt in control of what we want. I look forward to continuing my treatment with Dr. Browning and the lovely nurses.”
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