What is Secondary Infertility?
Secondary infertility is when a couple struggles with infertility after already having a baby. Primary infertility, on the other hand, is when a couple have not had a child after a minimum of one year of trying to conceive.
How Many Couples Have Secondary Infertility?
It’s estimated that 11% of couples struggle with secondary infertility.
Secondary Infertility Causes
Age is one of the most common causes of secondary infertility. Both the quality of quantify of a woman’s eggs declines as she ages, increasing her risk of miscarriage and reducing her chance of a successful pregnancy. By age 35, a healthy woman has approximately a 15% chance of getting pregnant each month. Men, on the other hand, typically experience a decline in fertility around 45. Studies have suggested that older men are at-risk of genetic sperm defects, which increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and passing on certain genetic conditions.
There are a variety of additional causes of secondary infertility, including:
- Complications from prior deliveries affecting future pregnancies (e.g. scar tissue in the uterus or fallopian tubes)
- Changes in lifestyle affecting sperm and egg quality (e.g. cigarette smoking, alcohol use, weight gain)
- Hormonal issues
- Uterine and tubal factors
When Should I See a Specialist for Secondary Infertility?
Regardless of primary or secondary infertility, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that if you are under 35 years of age have been actively trying to conceive for up to a year or if you over 35 years of age for up to 6 months without success, then it’s time to see a fertility specialist.
Infertility is attributed equally to men and women, so it’s important for both male and female partners to receive a comprehensive fertility work-up to help identify the potential cause of secondary infertility.
Fertility Treatment for Secondary Infertility
The options to treat secondary infertility are the same as primary infertility. After your fertility work-up, you and your fertility doctor will discuss the treatment option that is best for your individual situation.
For women that are older 35 and/or couples that have had three or more miscarriage in a row, we may recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF) with preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy. This process is also known as comprehensive chromosome screening (CCS). As a woman ages, she will have increasing numbers of embryos with chromosomal abnormalities, which is the causes of the majority of miscarriages. With CCS, we screen the cells from a day 5 embryo. By selecting and transferring only chromosomally normal embryos, there is a lowered risk of miscarriage and increase risk of a successful pregnancy.
You might also be interested in: CCRM Fertility Education Videos