Deciding to try for a brother or sister to your first child is an exciting step. You have already experienced the journey of parenthood once and hence are ready to welcome second baby in the family easily. Secondary infertility is the inability to get pregnant despite frequent, unprotected sex for at least a year in women under age 35 or six months in women age 35 and older, by a couple who have previously had a pregnancy. It is a misconception in majority of the population that if you get pregnant once you have no problem next time. Secondary infertility is a common problem that can be heartbreaking for many couples.
The inability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term after you’ve already had a baby is known as secondary infertility and is more common accounting for 60 percent of infertility cases. And it’s especially common in women who wait to have their second babies until their late 30s or even 40s, when fertility starts reducing.
What are the causes of secondary infertility?
There are a number of underlying medical conditions such as endometriosis, a poor sperm count and fibroids that may not have affected your first conception but could affect subsequent ones. Or problems that can kick in after the birth of your first child, which can then affect your ability to conceive. For example a Caesarean may have caused uterine adhesions, a womb infection post labor or a retained placenta can cause scarring making conception difficult.
Age may be a main factor, especially if you were a lot younger when you had your first child, or you had a late start to your family building. Some causes of infertility may worsen over time, like endometriosis or growing fibroids. If you've gained significant weight since your first child, that can also lead to problems conceiving.
About one-third of infertility cases are related to male infertility, another third are related to female infertility, and another third are related to problems in both the man and woman, or remain unexplained. Perhaps there are no obvious reasons why you can't conceive this time as compared to the last time.
What could have gone wrong from first pregnancy to the stage of secondary infertility?
Lifestyle also has a massive effect on the fertility. If a problem is persisting, one should evaluate lifestyle changes to see if it has radically changed from the first time you became pregnant. For instance, compared to the first time you conceived consider what has gone wrong between both the partners.
Has your weight or BMI reached an unhealthy level post-baby?
Taken up unhealthy habits such as smoking or drinking?
Are you overdosing on coffee, teas, and colas?
Are you more stressed?
Are you having regular sex once or twice a week?
Has your menstrual cycle changed/do you know when you’re ovulating?
Do you have high blood pressure or are you on some medication?
Are you tired all the time?
All of the above factors can affect your ability to get pregnant again.
Few simple measures if adopted by the couple may help them conceive and overcome the problem of secondary infertility. Make necessary changes in your lifestyle. Gained weight/lost weight (both have an adverse effect if taken to extremes). Eat a diet rich in whole grains, good proteins, veggies, and fruits. And, as always, exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Avoid alcohol, smoking, illicit drugs, caffeine and colas. Other steps which needs consideration includes :
1) Stress management: Stress can be a major factor in trying to get pregnant. Reducing stress can be done in different ways. Generally, reducing stress hormone levels involves a change in diet and exercising. Meditation has also proved effective as a stress buster. Many doctors recommend taking a short vacation to rejuvenate your body.
2) Know your fertile period: The fertile period during the monthly cycle in a women decreases with the increase in the age. Finding fertile period every month becomes a priority because once the egg is released, the ovary remains fertile only for around 12 hours or so. Ovulation kit or ovulation stick is used to determine when a person is ovulating.
3) Age and the fertility: Fertility decreases with the age. It is an accepted medical fact that the chances of female not conceiving or infertility in women is higher once she is 30 years old. It is not common with all. In most cases decreased fertility does not hamper a woman’s chances of getting pregnant, especially if she has been pregnant before. However, some women do experience the problem of infertility, termed as secondary infertility. This is more common in women who have had their first child after the age of 30. Many treatments are available to overcome this stage. Plan second pregnancy wisely. Don’t wait for a long to expand family so that it is too late.
4) Complete Medical checkup: Couples under the age of 35 when they fail to conceive after trying for more than a year should consult a specialist and undergo a complete check up. For women over 35, the waiting period is six months. The basic test includes Pap smear test to check for abnormalities in the uterus and ovaries and a three-day FSH/ estradiol blood test to measure the level of FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone, which is responsible for release of eggs from the ovary. High levels of the hormone indicate that body is working more to stimulate your ovaries.
5) Additional help of vitamins: Iron and folic acid is very good to improve the fertility. Available in the form of multivitamin tablets, it is taken in addition to the regular meals. The use of this increases the chances of a successful conception and also prevents the baby inside from suffering certain birth defects.
Unlike those couples who have never had a child, those couples going through secondary infertility find it hard to get support from their network of friends and family.
Secondary Infertility Treatments
Treatments for secondary infertility are the same as for primary infertility. Treatments may very from individual to individual and may include Fertility drugs, IUI, IVF and sometimes a combination of one or more assisted reproductive options together. Surgery, usually laparoscopic surgery, is done to repair blocked fallopian tubes, or to remove fibroids or endometriosis deposits.
Be assured that your need for treatment is the same as someone with primary infertility. It is not an "extreme measure" to use medical treatments that may help you have the child you desire. If you're experiencing secondary infertility, talk to your health care provider. Depending on the circumstances, both you and your partner might need medical evaluations. A woman's gynecologist or a man's urologist can help determine whether there's an issue that requires a specialist or treatment at a fertility clinic.
Secondary infertility can be surprising and stressful. Don't try to cope alone. Seek support from your partner, family and friends as you talk to your doctor about treating your secondary infertility. The good news is that secondary infertility can be treated just like primary infertility. If you suspect you have a fertility problem, get checked out. The sooner you find out the problem, the sooner you can get back on track to having your second, third or fourth child.
The Blossom Fertility and IVF Centre aims to reduce the stress and hassle associated with infertility investigations and treatment, by offering a one-stop diagnostic and treatment service for infertile couples. Infertility Specialists & Fertility Doctors at Blossom help couples facing secondary infertility to attain parenthood with the help of simple lifestyle changes and with the help of advanced Assisted Reproductive Technologies like IVF, ICSI and IUI.
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