Secondary infertility is the diagnosis when a couple is unable to conceive a child after one year of trying despite the fact that they may have conceived naturally before. Like primary infertility, it is possible to treat the condition with infertility treatments. Many couples are shocked by this diagnosis because they had no problems conceiving children in the past.
The reason for secondary infertility is as varied as those for primary infertility. Usually, the cause develops between the last pregnancy and their attempts to conceive again. Common causes can include ovarian reserve depletion, fallopian tube damage from previous delivery, changes in the ages of the parents, or the development of conditions that affect either one or both of the couple’s reproductive systems. Like primary fertility, the causes are attributed 30 percent to the woman, 30 percent to the men, and 40 percent to unexplained infertility or a combination of the couple’s problems.
The guidelines for when a couple should see a specialist for secondary infertility follow those for primary infertility. They are:
- After one year of unprotected, well-timed sexual intercourse without conception for those couples under 35
- After six months of unprotected, well-timed sexual intercourse without conception for couples over 35
- If the woman has suffered two or more successive miscarriages, has a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, or has irregular and painful menstrual cycles
Treatment for secondary infertility is the same as that for primary infertility. Once the couple has a fertility workup by a fertility specialist, then a treatment plan will emerge that can best foster success for achieving conception. The biggest difference for couples with secondary infertility is that they are usually managing the rearing of another child or children while they are in treatment, which can be challenging.
Secondary infertility is as common as primary infertility, but couples often feel more isolated and unsupported than their peers struggling with primary infertility. Reasons for this include a general sentiment that they should be happy that they have a child or children at all and not feel sad about their inability to have more children. But for couples that have not yet completed their family-building journey, this diagnosis is just as devastating to them as a primary infertility diagnosis is for a couple with no children.
Secondary infertility is hard for many couples and their supporters to accept since they have had children in the past. But like primary infertility, there are treatments that can help couples with their family building goals. Working together with a fertility specialist, they can make their dreams of having the family they always wanted a reality.
“Secondary Infertility.” www.resolve.org. Web. 5 March 2014. <http://www.resolve.org/diagnosis-management/infertility-diagnosis/secondary-infertility.html>
Gurevich, Rachel. “What is Secondary Infertility?” infertility.about.com. 3 December 2013. Web. 5 March 2014. <http://infertility.about.com/od/causesofinfertility/a/what-is-secondary-infertility.htm>