Secondary infertility is a condition that occurs when an individual is unable to become pregnant or carry a child after previously giving birth. It can be extremely stressful and may place strain on partners, especially when the cause is unknown and there has been a lack of success despite prolonged attempts at conception. 

According to the Center for Disease Control, 11% of couples who already have a child go on to experience secondary infertility. That’s approximately 4 million families or about half of all infertility cases. Yes, you read that right, half of all infertility cases! 

In this article for The Fertility Tribe, Monica Caron writes about how she didn’t think infertility was something she would have to worry about when it came to trying for baby #2. She says, “But then, I found out about secondary infertility. You see, infertility can impact anyone, at any time. And as I have learned, just because I got pregnant naturally once doesn't mean I would be able to do it again.”

woman holding a child in her lap

Secondary Infertility Causes

Like primary infertility, secondary infertility could be caused by a variety of factors. Males, like females, can experience degrees of infertility despite popular belief. This may include impaired sperm function or delivery, secondary to general impotence, or issues with hormone production and regulation. In many cases, testosterone replacement therapy may be a viable option for men suffering from this.

In females, giving birth previously may cause damage to parts of the female reproductive system. This damage may affect the fallopian tubes, the uterus, and so on. This is especially prevalent in those who were faced with conditions such as endometriosis or other uterine conditions.

Complications from a prior pregnancy may also cause damage that may make becoming pregnant challenging. These challenges may have also occurred during a planned termination.

Age and drug use may also cause impotence in one or both partners. When becoming pregnant has become challenging over a prolonged period of time, checking with your physician is highly recommended. The use of fertility or hormonal replacement therapies may be a viable option for some couples who are willing to spend time and considerable effort to conceive.

For some couples, becoming pregnant may simply not be an option. For these couples, it is suggested to seek out support through a counselor and/or support group. The strain on a relationship can be challenging but it is important to stay together and approach the obstacle as a team as opposed to placing blame on one another.

When to Seek Treatment for Secondary Infertility

Unfortunately, those experiencing secondary infertility often feel guilt and are reluctant to reach out for support or assistance because unlike those with primary infertility, they already have a child.

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Fertility Tribe contributor Monica Caron shares, “The thing about secondary infertility is that it comes with a weird sense of guilt. You tell yourself, ‘I already have a child. I am one of the lucky ones.’ But the truth is, I am devastated that we haven't been able to expand our family. Still, I feel guilty for being so sad when so many other people don't have a baby in the first place.”

woman holding laughing child in her arms

Regardless of if you already have a child (or children), the same recommendations for whether to seek help apply. It is recommended to consult a medical provider if you are having frequent and unprotected intercourse but do not become pregnant in a year for those under 35 and after 6 months for those over 35. Prior to doing so, it should be established that neither partner has undergone any procedures that would make it unlikely or impossible for conception to occur.

Not ready to make an appointment? If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, request a free telephone consultation with one of Laurel Fertility Care’s leading fertility specialists.

Read more of Monica Caron’s secondary infertility story here.