Are you already a parent who is planning to add another little member to your happy family? It should be easy to conceive again since you have already been down that road – however some women face unexpected difficulties in having another baby. If you are a parent having difficulty conceiving again for no apparent reason, you may be facing what is known as secondary infertility.

Secondary infertility – the failure to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after you have already had a child – is more common than one would think. Facing secondary infertility can be a challenging situation for both partners. At Gaudium we believe that being educated about a problem is half the problem solved. Below we have provided information that will help you understand secondary infertility, its likely causes, and available solutions.

What causes secondary infertility?

Age is an important factor when it comes to secondary infertility. In your late 30s you are slowly moving out of your child-bearing years and as a result getting pregnant may become harder to achieve. Lifestyle factors that may be attributing to your secondary infertility can include:

  • lack of exercise and  rest after your previous pregnancy
  • excess weight  retained or acquired after your previous pregnancy
  • poor diet, smoking or overuse of alcohol
  • stress and anxiety [Read how stress impacts your fertility ]

If your answer to any one of the above questions is in affirmative you can rectify the situation by making some simple lifestyle changes that are sure to help improve your physical and mental wellbeing. If however you do not succeed in your efforts to get pregnant, it is advisable to see a fertility specialist to get a timely diagnosis.

Medical factors that can lead to secondary infertility include:

  • Health of your partner: Just as a woman’s fertility declines with age, men can also experience a decline in sperm count and sperm quality. Smoking and poor life style significantly affect a man’s reproductive health. Your doctor can detect sperm abnormalities in your partner through a Semen Analysis.
  • Your own reproductive health: In the years that have passed since your previous pregnancy, you could have developed problems with ovulation, or hormonal imbalance, or you could have had an infection or a surgery that affected your fertility.

Health disorders that impact fertility in women can include:

– Cervical mucous hostility (when the mucous present in your cervix is too thick for the sperm to pass through and reach the egg)

-Polycystic ovaries (PCOD) which causes hormonal imbalance and can disrupt ovulation. [Read: I have PCOD. Can I still conceive?]

-Endometriosis, a condition where uterine tissue grows outside the uterus, causing damage to the reproductive organs

-Blockage in the fallopian tubes

-Previous history of miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy that may have damaged the reproductive tract

-Other hormone-related (endocrine) disorders such as diabetes or thyroid

Treating secondary infertility

Today, infertility treatment has advanced exponentially and most secondary infertility issues can be resolved with timely attention.If you find that you and your partner are healthy and everything seems normal but you are still finding it hard to get pregnant, consult an experienced fertility expert for a timely diagnosis as delaying fertility treatment can aggravate the problem, more so in aging couples.

To diagnose the underlying cause, your fertility doctor would obtain your medical history, order blood tests to check your hormonal levels, and semen analysis for your partner. If needed, they would perform a transvaginal ultrasound to identify any abnormal growth in your reproductive tract.

Depending on the cause and type of infertility you are facing there are different treatment options available such as:

  • Certain basic fertility treatments that are aimed at enhancing fertility in couples who are dealing with mild secondary infertility. This could include hormonal treatments and basic diet and lifestyle changes.
  • Different forms of fertility medications can be taken to improve the timing and quality of ovulation as well as correct any luteal phase deficiencies. Luteal phase is the stage of your menstrual cycle between ovulation and menstrual bleeding – a fertile phase when the uterine lining becomes thicker in anticipation of a pregnancy.
  • Minimally invasive surgeries such as laparoscopy to remove complications such as scar tissue or abnormal endometrial growth, or to open a blocked fallopian tube.
  • If your secondary infertility is being caused by a sperm defect—low sperm count, slow moving sperm or abnormally shaped sperm— your doctor will suggest treatments to improve sperm functionand/or enhance the cervical mucous hostility.
  • If preliminary treatments do not work, you may consider Intrauterine insemination or IUI. It is a simple procedure where your partner’s sperm are directly placed into the uterus, surpassing the cervical mucus. This improves the probability of more sperm reaching the egg. The upside of IUI is that it allows the sperm and egg to unite naturally within your body. The rest is up to nature to make sure that the egg is fertilized by the sperm and an embryo is formed.

A vast majority of couples facing secondary infertility benefit from the basic treatment methods discussed above. For the remaining percentage of couples for whom these treatments do not work, there is always the option of in vitro fertilization or IVF treatment. By the means of IVF a couple can become pregnant by using their own eggs and sperm but the embryo is formed in an artificial environment and then safely placed in the woman’s womb.

Depending on your personal circumstances and treatment preferences there are plenty of options open to you to consider for making your next pregnancy possible.

If you have more questions or need further guidance regarding selection of fertility treatment, feel free to consult Dr. Manika Khanna for a Free Second Opinion.