Thousands of couples every year are affected by secondary infertility, yet it remains a little known condition that people rarely talk about.
Here’s what you need to know about secondary infertility.
At a glance
- When you're having problems conceiving the second time around
- Sometimes problems with the birth of a child can affect future ability to conceive
- It's worth checking if your lifestyle has significantly changed since the last time you were pregnant
What is secondary infertility?
When you have one child, but later find you are having problems conceiving the second time around, this is known as secondary infertility.
Why does it happen?
It’s more common now because more of us are having babies later. So you may be fine with your first, but experience problems when you try again simply because a year or so has passed since you last tried to conceive.
What are the causes of secondary infertility?
Some problems can develop after the birth of your first child. For example, a Caesarean may cause uterine adhesions, or a womb infection or retained placenta can both cause scarring. Thankfully, this is uncommon, and most couples who had a Caesarean or retained placenta will go on to conceive again without any problems.
It’s worth asking if your lifestyle has radically changed from the first time you became pregnant. If you’ve gained some weight, started drinking more or you’re having sex less (well it’s not easy with small kids!) – changes like these can all play a part. If any of this sounds familiar, why not try boosting your chances with a few simple lifestyle choices.
When to seek help
If you’re trying to conceive for the second time - or you’re over 35 - it’s best to see your GP after six months and ask them to refer you to a fertility specialist.
What will a specialist do?
A fertility specialist will look for two key things - to see if you are ovulating and if your partner’s sperm is healthy and strong - and will make sure there aren’t any signs of any damage or abnormalities in your reproductive system.
The good news if you do opt for fertility treatments being a mum already may work in your favour. If you decide to have IVF, for example, you're more likely to get pregnant than a woman who hasn't had a baby before.
Can I get treatment on the NHS?
It’s unfortunately much harder to get fertility treatments on the NHS for secondary infertility, but it depends on your area, so do have a chat with your GP. You can also discuss whether private treatment is for you and look at suitable clinics.
Where can I go for secondary infertility support?
If conceiving your first child was easy, it can come as a real shock when you run into difficulty the second time around.
“It's perfectly normal and natural to agonise over trying to conceive the second time around,” says Richard Smith, Consultant Obstetrician. “You may feel real grief about not having the size of family you wanted, or providing a sibling for your little one. But remember, your child can have a wonderfully happy, secure childhood, benefiting from many important special relationships, from precious friends and cousins, to cherished uncles, aunts and grandparents."