Dealing with Secondary Infertility

by Brodie Nepean Second-Time Infertility

Problems getting pregnant when you already have at least one child can be a shock. Last time, you decided to start your family, you got pregnant and a few months later, you were holding your beautiful baby. It was so easy.

This time's different. You've been trying and month after month, and the test is negative. What's wrong? This type of infertility affects almost 20 percent of American couples.

RESOLVE, the national infertility association, defines secondary infertility as the inability to become pregnant or to carry a pregnancy to term following the birth (without assisted reproductive medications or technologies) of one or more biological children.

In a question to our "ask the midwife," a member said, "I have one child already. My husband and I have been trying since he was a year old to have another. We've run the list of testing. Nothing has been found that would prevent pregnancy. What could possibly be the problem?"

What Causes Secondary Infertility?

Fertility Decreases with Age

As women get older, fertility declines. Women in their twenties have a 20 to 30 percent chance each month of getting pregnant of unprotected intercourse. During the thirties, the change of getting pregnant each cycle drops to 15 percent. After 35, fertility declines more rapidly. By age 45, a woman has less than a five percent chance of getting pregnant each month.

Reproductive Problems

Taking advantage of your most fertile days can help with baby making. If you're right on with timing intercourse, the problem might be irregular ovulation or faulty sperm.

Is the woman ovulating each month? You can use an ovulation test of keep track on the BBT charting tool.

Does the man have enough normal, mobile sperm? Having fathered a child doesn't prove fertility now. Something could have changed.

Are the egg and sperm able to meet in the fallopian tube? Tubal problems are more common in second time infertility due to infections or inflammation after delivery or near the end of pregnancy.

Has anything happened since your first child's birth? Think about medications, trauma during pregnancy or birth, lifestyle changes or increased stress.

If nothing seems to be preventing a pregnancy and you're timing sex right, your next step will be either making lifestyle changes or seeking treatment.

Lifestyle Factors Can Affect Baby Making

Couples who adapt five or more fertility-friendly diet and lifestyle changes are 80 percent more likely to conceive than couples who don't adapt any. These changes include healthy diet, exercise, stop smoking, avoid pesticides and herbicides, reduce indoor air pollution, go organic and eating more meals at home.

If you've committed to a fertility-friendly lifestyle and you're still not able to get pregnant after a few months, it's time to seek treatment.

Dealing with Fertility Issues

Have you already identified the problem? Go to a fertility doctor. don't be in fertility denial. The sooner you begin treatment, the sooner you'll be pregnant with your next baby.

Fertility Treatments

The treatments for secondary infertility are the same as for primary infertility. Your doctor might suggest any of the following treatments:

  • Ovulation induction
  • Surgery to remove adhesions or scarring
  • Hormones to treat conditions like PCOS or endometriosis
  • IVF
  • IUI
  • Donor sperm or eggs

Emotional Support While You're Trying

Not being able to get pregnant can be devastating. People who already have a child and are struggling to have another child often report a lack of empathy. Those trying for a first baby might resent that you dare complain about your situation. After all, you already have one child. You might even ask yourself why you're so upset. After all, you've been blessed with a child.

Your older child might ask about a sibling. How do you explain to a 5-year-old that you're trying? Parenting with infertility brings its own type of guilt.

Seek out the support of others who are experiencing these challenges and wish you the best as you build your family.


MissyJ's picture

Submitted by MissyJ on

I had secondary infertility before conceiving my second. (We went on later to conceive others more easily.) Those years of waiting, however, were horribly difficult. Being around others that understood was such a help!