The idea that, “I got pregnant once, so I can get pregnant again,” is a common misconception. Secondary infertility is the inability to get pregnant when you’ve had a successful pregnancy in the past.
The statistics show us that not only can it be difficult to conceive after you’ve already had a pregnancy or given birth to a child in the past, it’s actually two-times more common to experience secondary infertility than is to experience infertility the first time you try to get pregnant (primary infertility).
The problem is that undiagnosed secondary infertility is often put on the backburner because couples are busier with existing children and are patiently willing to try for longer, assuming historical pregnancies/children put them in the clear. This can result in significant delays in seeking infertility diagnosis and treatment, a need that is exacerbated for women 35-years or older.
Why Can’t I Get Pregnant Again?
There are several reasons women who’ve been pregnant may have trouble getting pregnant again:
Reduced egg quality/quantity – probably age-related
One of the most common reasons for secondary infertility is “advanced maternal age.” If you’re 35-years or older, reduced egg quantity and diminishing egg quality makes it harder for you to conceive, or for a healthy embryo to implant and form. In some cases, you may even be miscarrying a fertilized egg with chromosomal/genetic abnormalities before you even know you’re pregnant.
Poor sperm quality and/or impaired sperm delivery in men
First, it’s important to note that men have a biological clock too, so you’re aging partner’s sperm may have diminished in quality, number, motility (ability to swim/move) or more difficult delivering sperm via strong erections/orgasms as the years tick by. Semen analysis is worth investing in to determine whether a male fertility factor is at work.
You have an undiagnosed infertility factor
Yes, women with endometriosis, PCOS, fibroid tumors and other infertility factors may be infertile – or they may not. These factors are guarantees you can’t get pregnant using unassisted methods, they just make you more prone to infertility.
Thus, you may have gotten pregnant the first time around – sort of like luck of the draw – but now an infertility factor is rearing it’s less-attractive side. Signs you may have an undiagnosed infertility factor at work include:
- Irregular periods
- Heavy or painful periods
- History of miscarriage
- Pelvic pain or discomfort and/or discomfort while having intercourse
- History of other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune disorders, etc.
Complications from previous pregnancy and/or surgery
Did you have a C-section? Have you had any surgeries that could have left scarring in your reproductive organs? Could a post-labor or surgical infection have caused damage to your pelvic tissues? Any scarring or chronic inflammation in the pelvic region complicates the conception-implantation- healthy fetal development process.
Medication side effects
Are you on any new medications? Is your partner? We so rarely read all the fine print, and yet certain common medications are known to interfere with fertility. Examples include:
- Certain anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Steroids, including anabolic and corticosteroids used to treat asthma and lupus
- Cancer medications/treatments
- Skin products that contain hormones (like anti-aging products that include estrogen or progesterone)
- Some seizure medications
- Thyroid medications, which can affect prolactin levels
Take a list of all medications and supplements taken by yourself and your partner to your OB/GYN and see if there are any contraindications for conception/fertility.
Individuals or couples experiencing secondary infertility should check in with a fertility specialist after 12-consecutive months of trying to conceive (TTC) without success, 6-months if you are 35-years or more, and after 3-months if you are older than 38-years of age.
Worried you’re experiencing secondary infertility? Schedule a consultation with Women’s Health Associates to touch base. We’ll work with you to create a fertility plan based on your symptoms and our findings, and we’ll support you through a referral to exceptional fertility specialists here in the KC area if that’s the next step for you.