Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after you have already successfully given birth to one or more children. Many couples experience secondary infertility even after easily conceiving and carrying an earlier pregnancy to term. Though this type of infertility is given the name "secondary," this doesn’t mean that it is any less painful than primary infertility; it can cause just as intense emotions and feelings.
How Common Is Secondary Infertility
Secondary infertility can affect any couple, no matter what their age or cultural background. In fact, this type of infertility affects almost 20% of all American couples. Unfortunately, many health care providers and researchers pay less attention to secondary infertility than to primary infertility. However, recent studies suggest that secondary infertility actually accounts for the majority of all infertility cases.
The Emotions of Secondary Infertility
Secondary infertility is a highly emotional journey for couples to have to take. Many couples find it hard to believe that they can’t get pregnant, especially after getting pregnant so easily the first time around. It is common to experience feelings of anger and frustration towards those who are so easily able to expand their families.
Couples experiencing secondary infertility often feel particularly alone too – not only do family and friends seem unable to understand, but those experiencing primary infertility are often less than supportive. These intense emotions can really make dealing with infertility difficult.
What Causes Secondary Infertility?
Many of the causes of secondary infertility are similar to those associated with primary infertility. Most couples find that their secondary infertility is the result of a combination of these factors.
As women age, the number of eggs available for fertilization begins to decline. Ovulation becomes more sporadic, making pregnancy less likely during each menstrual cycle. Most women find that their fertility peaks between the age of 25 and 35. After 35, fertility begins to decline steadily and by age 45, the chance of pregnancy is less than 6% per cycle. Additionally, as women age, existing eggs become degraded, increasing the chances of early miscarriage.
Male fertility also declines with age. Though men continue to produce sperm throughout their life, the motility and morphology of their sperm begins to decline. This makes fertilization of an egg less likely.