Secondary Infertility: Sometimes, History Doesn’t Repeat Itself

Jennifer "Jay" Palumbo

IVF mom of two and infertility advocate

Secondary infertility is like a cruel practical joke of nature. You have one child, you had no issues conceiving that child, and so you have no reason to think you have any fertility concerns whatsoever. Then it’s like, “SIKE!”

Infertility can still be an issue, even if the first time around, it seemingly was not. Secondary infertility is quite common. It accounts for more than half of all infertility cases. Still, almost understandably, many people fail to recognize this as an infertility problem, especially when your history has made you believe otherwise.

Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after successfully conceiving one (or even more than one) child. Unlike those having trouble conceiving their first child, people who are affected by secondary infertility are much less likely to seek infertility treatments. There is often a misconception that if you were fertile the first time, you are always fertile.

Unfortunately, they may be told they have nothing to worry about, keep on trying, and eventually, it will happen. Not pursuing potential causes can be dismissive of a real issue. The recommendation is this: If you are under 35 years old though and have been trying to conceive for over a year, you should consider seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. If you are over 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for over six months, you should schedule an appointment. Both recommendations apply regardless of whether you got pregnant quickly the first time or not.

And speaking of dismissive, let us not forget the feelings that come along with secondary infertility. Some have shared with me that they are often told, “Well, you have one, so consider yourself lucky!” While people are well-intentioned and are trying to be comforting, this is dismissive of the person who wants to have more children.

Resolve: The National Infertility Association suggests connecting with others who “get it” or seek support by finding a Support Group or Mental Health Professional in your area.

The way I look at it is “fertile people” only have to ask, “Should we have more children?” whereas those who struggle to conceive either have to ask, “Am I able to have more children?” or even more complicated, “Can we afford IVF treatment to try to have children?” When you want to have children, also if it’s your second or third, and you feel like you’re not able to, it still can hurt as it feels like your choices have been taken away.

As for the reasons for what may be causing secondary infertility, they are not all that different than the reasons for primary infertility. It can include ovulation issues, endometriosis, PCOS, uterine abnormalities, or male factor infertility. Further complicating matters is now you are a few years older since you had your first child, so your egg quality may have begun decreasing.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve spoken to someone who has said to me, “I had no issues getting pregnant the first time!” I ask them, “How long ago were you pregnant the first time?” And they’ll answer, “Ten years ago.” Or some similar answer. Your fertility changes over the years, and sometimes, more than anything, time itself is the culprit.

In addition to your age and how long you’ve been trying to conceive, if you have experienced two or more miscarriages, have irregular periods, or have especially painful periods, you might want to make an appointment sooner rather than later! Overall, if you have been trying to get pregnant again, and it’s just not happening, there’s no harm in seeing a doctor to gain some insight. Your physician can potentially diagnose the cause of your problem and develop a treatment plan to help you grow your family! GoStork is here to help you find a fertility provider that is right for you.