Causes of Secondary Infertility, Explained
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about infertility. Even though healthcare professionals do their best to educate the general public, misinformation is still prevalent across the web and in conversations around the globe.
These misconceptions not only cause confusion, but they can leave those struggling to conceive feeling lost and defeated when there’s still hope and a potential solution available.
In this blog, we’ll discuss one of the most commonly misunderstood fertility struggles: secondary infertility (sometimes referred to as second hand infertility). We’ll be exploring what causes it, what’s true and what isn’t, and ways to combat it.
Keep scrolling for all the details!
What is Secondary Infertility?
Secondary infertility is when a woman has successfully conceived before, with very little to no issues, but is unable to (or struggles to) conceive or carry a child to term afterwards. It can impact any woman, regardless of age or underlying medical conditions, and is estimated to impact 5 per cent of women in the UK.
What Causes Secondary Infertility?
There are many people who mistakenly believe fertility is permanent, or that once a woman becomes pregnant, it “proves” she is fertile and therefore she won’t experience problems in the future. This absolutely isn’t the case.
So how common is secondary infertility? Ultimately, it depends on a variety of factors such as age, underlying medical conditions, and lifestyle factors. According to the Medical News Today, secondary infertility affects approximately 11% of couples in the US.
For couples or individuals who have successfully conceived before, experiencing secondary infertility can be confusing and frustrating. If you’re in this situation, it’s normal to want to know why you’re experiencing this sudden change and what can be done to address it.
The answer to this question isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think, however, as secondary infertility causes vary between men and women. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Causes of Secondary Infertility in Men
While the typical secondary infertility definition you’ll find online focuses on women, men can also experience this condition. In fact, the causes among men are quite different from those of their female counterparts.
Here are some of the most common causes of secondary infertility in men:
Age-related decline in sperm quality
Hormonal imbalances such as low testosterone levels
Sexually transmitted infections
Blockages in the ejaculatory ducts or reproductive tract
Swollen veins preventing proper ejaculation
Lifestyle factors likes smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet
Causes of Secondary Infertility in Women
The causes of secondary infertility in women, while different from those in men, are equally as diverse and may require medical examination to identify.
Some of the most common causes for women include:
Ovulation disorders like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or hypothalamic amenorrhea
Blocked fallopian tubes that prevent the egg from successfully travelling to the uterus
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) that has caused scarring and tissue damage within the uterus
Uterine or cervical abnormalities like cysts, polyps, or fibroids
Irregularities in hormone levels (oestrogen, testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone, etc)
Lifestyle factors including frequent alcohol consumption, smoking, and poor diet
Secondary Infertility Treatments
Secondary infertility is a sensitive topic for both men and women who are hoping to expand their families. Thankfully, though, there are a range of medical treatments and procedures available that can greatly increase the likelihood of a healthy and successful pregnancy.
The best medical intervention for you will depend on your unique medical history and existing barriers to conception, which is why it’s always necessary to consult with a doctor.
Let’s briefly explore the various options available to you:
There are many secondary infertility statistics and studies that link the condition to hormonal and nutritional deficiencies. For example, we know that ovulation disorders account for approximately 25 percent of all infertility cases, and nutritional supplements like folic acid, vitamin E, and zinc have been shown to help regulate ovulation cycles. We also know that overweight men with poor nutritional habits are 11 per cent more likely to have a lower sperm count.
Regardless of the causes of secondary infertility, a well-balanced, premium supplement can contribute to a greater chance of pregnancy, making them a highly-recommended addition to any fertility treatment plan.
In Vitro Fertilisation
In-vitro fertilisation is a procedure that involves combining a woman’s egg and man’s sperm outside the body within a laboratory setting, for the purpose of creating embryos. The most viable embryos are then carefully selected and surgically implanted into the woman's uterus, significantly improving the likelihood of pregnancy.
IVF is a highly effective solution for those living with ovulatory disorders, blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, or unexplained infertility. It’s also a popular and suitable option for individuals with a history of recurrent pregnancy loss or genetic disorders. However, it’s important to note that IVF is a time-consuming and expensive process.
Surgical interventions are a promising solution for both men and women who are facing secondary infertility — especially if there’s an underlying anatomical issue contributing to the difficulty of conceiving. Men, for example, can have a varicocelectomy to enlarge the veins inside the scrotum, making it easier for sperm to travel from the testicals and through to the vans deferens.
Women can choose a tuboplasty or salpingostomy to remove blockages from the fallopian tubes and provide a clearer pathway for eggs making their way to the uterus. Or, if the woman has been diagnosed with endometriosis, she can undergo a laparoscopy to remove any affected tissue and improve her chances of getting pregnant.
Only a doctor will be able to determine which surgical procedure, if any, will result in a positive outcome for you.
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