Secondary infertility: The little-known issues surrounding the inability to conceive again
Most people think that if they have had one child they will be able to conceive again especially if conceiving their first child was straightforward.
However, explains Aoife Corley, Midwife Manager at ReproMed, roughly one in six couples encounter infertility and it is estimated that secondary infertility accounts for 60 percent of fertility cases in Ireland.
"Many couples who suffer from secondary infertility speak of the silent stigma that surrounds it," Corley explains to Herfamily.ie. "Lots of people feel that they should be simply happy with the child that they already have, but that doesn’t mean you can’t grieve for the second child you couldn’t conceive or feel sad for your child who may never have a brother or sister."
According to Corley, there are many reasons for secondary infertility – many of which are the same as primary infertility and can include:
- Age - egg quality and numbers start to significantly decline after the age of 35.
- Impaired sperm production, function or delivery in men.
- Complications related to prior pregnancy or surgery, for example, damage to fallopian tubes, a previous caesarean section or an ectopic pregnancy.
- Conditions like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), endometriosis and fibroids.
- Risk factor changes for you or your partner, such as diet and lifestyle factors or use of certain medications.
However, says Corley, there are a number of steps you can investigate before going down the IVF route many of which will be successful.
- The fact that you have conceived before, while confusing and frustrating, is in your favour so keep that in mind. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to get pregnant again
- Look at your diet and lifestyle, sometimes changing things like reducing alcohol intake, stopping smoking or changing medication you might be on can really help
- Your GP is your first port of call. Talk to your GP, if you are having continued difficulty. They can do a health review and some basic fertility tests and may advise referral for more specialist tests if warranted. These may check is a deeper problem like damaged fallopian tubes or PCOS, and if there is, your GP will refer you to a Fertility expert where you will be given lots of further options
- If there is an ovulation issue, you may be prescribed medication, often oral tablets, to address this without undergoing anything invasive
"Stay calm," Corley advises. "Try not to get overly stressed, easier said than done but it will help no matter what treatment you need to undertake."