Overcoming Secondary Infertility: A Guide to Secondary Infertility Treatment Options
You may not expect a hard time getting pregnant again if you've already had a child. Yet, it's possible to experience infertility even if you previously had no trouble conceiving. And just because you already have a child doesn't diminish the pain and frustration of struggling to conceive another.
Infertility can be devastating, whether or not you have children already. However, it's important to realize you're not alone in this. You may be dealing with secondary infertility, a common problem that affects many.
What is Secondary Infertility?
Secondary infertility is when a person has difficulty conceiving after having had at least one successful pregnancy. This sets it apart from primary infertility, which is when someone who has never achieved a pregnancy struggles to conceive after about a year of trying, or six months if they're a woman over age 35.
Anyone can experience both primary and secondary infertility, which is quite common. According to the CDC, as many as 14% of women of childbearing age face difficulties conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term.
It's normal to go through complex emotions surrounding the situation. Grappling with secondary infertility can be just as heartbreaking as primary infertility.
The good news is there are many ways to address secondary infertility. Many people can conceive following a good plan of action. So what causes secondary infertility to begin with?
Common Causes of Secondary Infertility
Infertility is a complicated journey that can stem from several causes. Fertility is not static — it can change over time as you go through life. Egg quality can affect fertility, as the quality of a woman's eggs decreases with age. Fertility, in general, begins to decline for women as early as their early 30s. Simply being older than you were when you had your first child could mean a harder time getting pregnant again.
Scarring in the uterus can also contribute to secondary infertility. Although it is uncommon, some women can experience such scarring after a C-section or other uterine procedures that can interfere with the implantation process. Other women may be dealing with other structural problems in the uterus or fallopian tubes, such as inflammation or blockage, which prevents an egg and sperm from meeting. Uterine fibroids or endometriosis may also play a role in secondary infertility.
Ovulation issues are another common cause of secondary infertility. Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that can cause you to ovulate irregularly or not at all. Some women may have a diminished ovarian reserve, meaning they have fewer eggs in their ovaries. In some cases, medical conditions like autoimmune disorders or infections can lead to secondary infertility.
Secondary infertility in men can be due to impaired sperm motility, low sperm count, or even drug and alcohol use. Low testosterone and certain medical conditions may also contribute to infertility in men. Supplements that contain testosterone or similar substances can inhibit sperm production.
Sometimes the cause of secondary infertility is unclear. But whatever the cause, there's still hope for growing your family. There are many ways to treat secondary infertility.
Treatment Options for Secondary Infertility
If you're trying to conceive, it's worth implementing lifestyle changes like exercising more, losing weight, and eating healthy.
However, if you've been unable to get pregnant after several months of trying, you may want to see a fertility specialist. You might even start by talking to your family doctor about your concerns, who can recommend further action. The next step may be to investigate why the problem exists.
One of the first things your doctor will likely do is run some tests to determine the cause of your secondary infertility. Here are a few tests you may need to undergo:
• Blood tests to check your hormone levels, such as AMH and FSH
• Review of your medical history and a pelvic exam
• Imaging of the uterus, cervix, or fallopian tubes
• Ovulation testing
• Semen analysis
Once your doctor knows what's contributing to your infertility, they can better develop a treatment plan.
Ovarian Stimulation and IUI
Ovarian stimulation and intrauterine insemination (IUI) are often the first lines of treatment for infertility. First, you take medication to stimulate your ovaries to produce more than one egg in a cycle. Then, a hormone injection may be given to trigger ovulation. Thirdly, a thin catheter is used to transfer sperm into the uterus around the time of ovulation.
IUI is often an effective treatment for those dealing with male factor infertility, cervical issues, or age-related infertility. You may need to repeat the treatment cycle more than once since this simple treatment may have a relatively low success rate in a single cycle.
In Vitro Fertilization
With in vitro fertilization, or IVF, you first take medication to stimulate the ovaries to make multiple eggs. Then, the eggs are removed with a small needle and fertilized in a laboratory. From the fertilized eggs, an embryo is then transferred into the uterus, where it can implant.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or ICSI, is sometimes used along with IVF in cases of male factor infertility or unexplained infertility. During the procedure, sperm is injected directly into the egg using a tiny needle rather than simply incubating sperm and eggs in a culture dish overnight.
ICSI may be a good option for those with severe male factor infertility, people who have been unsuccessful with regular IVF, or when there are structural problems or blockages within the male reproductive tract.
In some cases, reproductive surgery may be necessary to manage secondary infertility. A hysteroscopy or laparoscopy can assess and treat uterine and pelvic abnormalities, such as pelvic scarring, uterine polyps, or fibroids.
Grow Your Family With Help
Whatever the cause of secondary infertility, California Fertility Partners is here to support you on your journey with compassionate, individualized care. As leaders in the field of reproductive medicine, we offer various effective treatment options to help you grow your family. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a consultation.