After having a baby, many couples want to give their child a sibling and expand their family. Yet according to a 2013 National Health Statistics report, more than three million women of childbearing age have experienced secondary infertility. Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to achieve a pregnancy or carry a baby to term after the successful birth of one or more children.
Secondary infertility often takes an emotional toll on a couple. They may keep trying to conceive without help, unaware there are treatments available to improve their chances of having a second or third child. But in order to successfully treat secondary infertility, it’s first important to identify the cause.
What Causes Secondary Infertility?
Although couples dealing with secondary infertility should consult a fertility specialist to determine the exact cause, the reasons likely fall into the following categories:
Age: After age 35, a woman’s fertility declines, mostly due to low ovarian reserve. Women with low ovarian reserve have fewer eggs ready for fertilization, and the eggs that are available are of diminished quality, thereby making achieving a pregnancy difficult. Treatments for low ovarian reserve include intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Complications from Prior Surgeries or Births: Abdominal or gynecologic surgeries may result in scar tissue blocking the fallopian tubes, which prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. If the uterus is scarred from either a prior procedure or delivery, the egg cannot attach to the uterine walls and grow. Laparoscopic surgery to remove scar tissue and IVF can overcome these issues.
Male Infertility: A low sperm count is a major factor in male infertility, which may be caused by physical issues such as varicocele (a swelling of the veins in the testicles), blockages in the reproductive organs, radiation treatments, and hormonal imbalances. Obesity and smoking can also negatively impact a man’s fertility. Fortunately, male fertility can be boosted by eliminating damaged testicle veins, making lifestyle changes, or taking certain vitamins (C and D) and minerals (zinc).
Lifestyle: Lifestyle factors, chiefly, obesity and tobacco use, can hamper fertility. Smoking affects fertility in both men and women, while being overweight interferes with a woman’s ovulation cycle and a man’s sperm production. Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and quitting smoking may reverse these factors and help couples conceive.
Chronic Health Conditions: For men, diabetes may lower the number and quality of sperm. For women, endometriosis — an abnormal growth of uterine tissue outside of the uterus — accounts for nearly half of all female infertility cases. Surgery to remove the excess tissue can improve fertility in women with endometriosis. Other options include IVF and IUI.
Certain Medications: Medications to treat depression, hypertension, and thyroid disorders, among others, can decrease the chances of becoming pregnant. Such medications either create a hormonal imbalance that hinders ovulation in women or cause erectile dysfunction in men. However, couples trying to become pregnant should ask their doctor before stopping any medications.
Overcoming Secondary Infertility
At New York Reproductive Wellness, we understand how difficult secondary infertility can be. Unfortunately, many couples struggling with the condition don’t seek treatment to help them have another child. Our compassionate specialists can diagnose the problem that’s preventing you from becoming pregnant and recommend effective therapies. Contact our office today to set up an appointment.