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Infertility and treatment

What is secondary infertility and what are the treatment options?

By Cryos | 6/20/2022
A mother to a child looking sad

A popular assumption regarding pregnancy is that as long as you were able to conceive naturally for your first child it should not be a problem to become pregnant again. But that is not the case for everyone. Secondary infertility is more common than most people think, and it can happen to everyone. Read about what causes secondary infertility and the different types of treatment available.

What is secondary infertility?

Infertility means that you are not able to conceive a child at all, whereas secondary infertility means that you already have a child, but you experience problems with conceiving a second child. Secondary infertility is just as common as primary infertility. According to WHO, approximately 15% of couples trying to have child number two suffer from secondary infertility.

What causes secondary infertility?

Conceiving a child is a complex process and there can be numerous causes of infertility. Primary and secondary infertility is often caused by the same defects, but secondary infertility is more often caused a decrease in fertility because of old age. When you already have conceived a child, it is normal to wait a couple of years before trying again. During this period, your fertility will decrease and may cause you to experience signs of secondary infertility. Secondary infertility can also be caused by diseases like cancer or operations affecting the ability to produce healthy sperm and eggs.

If you want to know more about the causes of infertility, we can recommend our article on the most common fertility problems or our blog post on the subject of male infertility.

The treatment options for secondary infertility

Often, there are no signs of secondary infertility. Therefore, if you are struggling to conceive it would be a good idea to have your fertility tested. If the test results are negative and your fertility levels are low, it does not mean that you will not be able to have a sibling for your child. You might just need a little help. Many people suffering from secondary infertility must rely on fertility treatment to have their dream of a second child fulfilled.

There are different fertility treatment options available, depending on your situation. IUI treatment is the most used type of fertility treatment because it does not require surgery or sedation. In IUI treatment the sperm is injected into the woman’s uterus through a thin plastic tube. Other types of fertility treatment like IVF and ICSI are recommended for men with low sperm motility or quality because the sperm cells are either injected straight into the egg (ICSI treatment) or placed in a petri dish next to the egg (IVF treatment). By doing that, the sperm has optimal chances of fertilizing the egg.

Another possibility to fulfil your dream of another child is through the use of donor gametes. Donor sperm and donor eggs are a great option for couples who are not able to conceive using their own sperm or eggs.

Couple suffering from secondary infertility

How to cope with secondary infertility?

Coping with secondary infertility is similar to dealing with primary infertility, but there is a key difference. Since you already have conceived a child, there are a lot of different emotions couples suffering from primary infertility do not experience. It is normal to feel pressure when trying to conceive another child for a variety of reasons:

  • You always pictured yourself having a large family. Many people dream of a large family with multiple children or maybe children close to each other in age. When you struggle to conceive another child, this type of dream can put a lot of pressure on your body.
  • Pressure from friends and family. A common assumption regarding families with one child is that it should be easy to conceive another child. But a lot of people do not know that secondary infertility is just as common as primary infertility.
  • You want to give your child a sibling. A lot of people think that children deserve a sibling, someone close to their age to share their upbringing with. Wanting to provide a sibling to your child, can put even more pressure on yourself when experiencing signs of secondary infertility.

A way to cope with both primary and secondary infertility is to connect with others who experience fertility problems. Therefore, we have created a Facebook group called 'Family Dreams', where people dealing with infertility can support each other. Another way is to acknowledge your feelings of grief and find ways to manage the stress caused by infertility. One way to manage the stress is to talk to about the feelings of infertility. You could talk to your partner, a family member, or a therapist. It is important to work through the emotions because infertility will often have a big impact on your everyday life.

If you want to read our tips on how to cope with infertility, follow the link to our blog post on the subject.