Secondary Infertility: When Conception Becomes Challenging

Published: 14/07/2023

What is secondary infertility, and when should people seek help for it?

What is Secondary Infertility?

Secondary infertility occurs when you can’t get pregnant or carry a baby to full term after you’ve been pregnant before and had a baby with no trouble. 

Approximately one in seven couples suffer from infertility and one in twenty struggle with secondary infertility. 

If you think you are struggling with secondary infertility and have access to myTamarin fertility support through your employer, book a 1-1 session today with a fertility expert to understand your options and talk through your personal experience with an expert. 

What are the Causes of Secondary Infertility?

There are various factors that can contribute to secondary infertility. Here are some of the most common causes:

  1. Male factor issues: changes in sperm quality, quantity, or motility, reducing the chances of conception
  2. Uterine abnormalities: Conditions such as uterine fibroids, adhesions, or scarring from previous surgeries can interfere with implantation and hinder pregnancy.
  3. Changes in health: Health conditions, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), hormonal imbalances, and sexually transmitted infections, can develop or worsen over time, affecting fertility.
  4. Age: As a woman ages, the quality and quantity of her eggs decrease, making conception more challenging.
  5. Lifestyle factors: Factors such as obesity, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can all impact fertility.

The Emotional Impact of Secondary Infertility

Secondary infertility can be surprising, especially if you did not struggle to conceive with your previous children. 

Dealing with secondary infertility can be stressful and emotionally draining due to juggling the responsibilities of being a parent. Many people feel guilty that they should be ‘counting their blessings ‘with the child they already have as they are aware there are many people struggling with fertility issues who don't have children currently. T

These feelings are perfectly natural, it is the combination of these thoughts and the desire for a baby that can make it difficult to balance everyday life. 

It's important for people to seek support where possible if they are struggling - booking in a consultation with a fertility nurse on myTamarin can help people navigate these challenges and feel supported in the journey. 

When should I seek help for secondary infertility?

The NICE (National institute of Health and care excellence) guidelines suggest it is time to consult your doctor if you have been having regular unprotected sex with your partner for one year without successful conception. However, this applies when the woman is aged up to 35. For women or couples over the age of 35 then a 6-month timescale is more practical.  The first point of contact should be your GP however, it is important to note that Secondary infertility is not covered by the NHS. Therefore, any fertility treatment that may be required off the back of investigations may need to be self-funded. 

If you want to speak to a fertility nurse about the options available to you, book in a 1-1 consultation with a myTamarin fertility nurse. 

What are treatment options for secondary infertility?

  1. Medical interventions: Fertility specialists may recommend medications to stimulate ovulation or address hormonal imbalances. Assisted reproductive technologies, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF), can also be effective in certain cases.
  2. Surgical procedures: Surgical interventions may be necessary to correct structural abnormalities in the reproductive organs, such as removing fibroids or repairing fallopian tubes.
  3. Lifestyle changes: Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve fertility outcomes. Maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, managing stress levels, and avoiding harmful habits like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption are all beneficial.
  4. Psychological support: Seeking support from an expert or joining support groups can help individuals and couples navigate the emotional challenges associated with secondary infertility.

How to cope with secondary infertility

Secondary infertility can be a distressing and unexpected journey for couples who have already experienced the joy of parenthood. It is crucial to remember that you are not alone, and there are various options available to help you overcome these challenges. 

  • Acknowledge your feelings: everything you are feeling is acceptable. You might feel a huge amount of jealousy seeing pregnant people, and that is completely understandable. You might also feel stressed with a bigger age gap between your child and the baby you are trying for - these feelings are totally normal. 
  • Remember to communicate openly with your partner and take care of your emotional well-being throughout this process. Don't worry if you seem to be taking it differently than your partner. This is natural and people cope in different ways - it might be they are masking their feelings more so discussing it will help. 
  • Spend quality time with your child - keep life as normal as possible for them and try to do small activities with them to keep them happy (even if you might be struggling) - these moments of joy are really important. If you have just had bad news (a negative pregnancy test, for example) sending them to play at a friend/family member's house might be a good way to avoid them seeing you upset.
  • Let go of any guilt - remember you are entitled to feel frustrated and upset with this, even if you already have children. 
  • Focus on your wellbeing - make sure you take time for yourself: whether that be seeing friends, exercising, or practising wellness techniques - you shouldn't be punishing yourself.

At myTamarin we are always here to support you through life's challenges. Book a session with one of our experts who can help you through this challenging time. 

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