Everything You Need to Know About Secondary Infertility

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Let’s say you had a hard time getting pregnant. It was a fairly uneventful pregnancy and birth, but now I have a happy, healthy child. However, if you and your partner decide to have a second pregnancy, that’s a different story and you’re having trouble getting pregnant. To learn more, we spoke with Emily Huffstetler, MD, OB-GYN and board member and Share the Drop advisor.

meet the experts

Emily Huffstetler, MD, is an OB-GYN at Jefferson Obstetrics and a board member and advisor for Share the Drop, the first free app that connects families who want to donate and/or receive breast milk.

What is secondary infertility?

Secondary infertility is when you have a baby but are unable to conceive. According to his 2014 paper published in Central European Journal of Urology, secondary infertility affects approximately 11% of US couples. For reference, primary infertility (the inability to conceive a first child) affects about 1 in 5 women (19%), according to the CDC.

How is secondary infertility diagnosed?

In much the same way as diagnosing primary infertility, diagnosing secondary infertility begins with a physical examination and a complete medical history, followed by an intrapelvic biopsy to determine if the uterus and ovaries are normal, according to Penn Medicine. Additional measures, such as performing an ultrasound, will follow. Ovarian reserve is assessed, hormone levels including progesterone are measured to determine if you are ovulating, and your partner’s semen analysis is performed.

What Causes Secondary Infertility?

“They are similar to the causes of primary infertility,” says Dr. Hafstedtler. “Often, no cause can be identified. However, some causes include ovarian dysfunction, aging, sperm problems, blocked fallopian tubes, complications from previous pregnancies, medications, and smoking.

What are the treatments for secondary infertility?

According to Dr. Huffstetler, treating secondary infertility is similar to treating primary infertility. “We start by figuring out what’s wrong… lab work, semen analysis, possibly ultrasound and HSG (hysterosalpingogram).” By Causes of Secondary Infertility , the treatment is different. “Drugs like clomid and letrozole can be used. Sometimes surgery is needed, sometimes IVF,” she explains.

Infertility, whether primary or secondary, can take a toll, both mentally and physically. Regardless of which type you’re dealing with, relying on a loved one or joining a support group (such as RESOLVE: The National Inferility Association) can help you deal with the great stress of infertility.

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