What is secondary infertility?
Secondary infertility is when you’ve had a pregnancy in the past, but you can’t get pregnant again. It’s thought to affect about 5% of people in the UK.
Some people will have given birth to at least 1 baby, while others may have had a miscarriage or termination in an earlier pregnancy.
Secondary infertility can be very distressing. You may feel a mix of emotions – shock that your fertility has changed, sadness that an existing child won’t have a brother or sister, or even guilt about being upset, when there are some people who can’t have any children.
You may also find it difficult to talk about what you’re going through, or feel like you can’t get the same support or help as someone who has primary infertility.
But it’s important to know that there is help available. Read on to learn more about the symptoms, causes and treatment options for secondary infertility, so you can get the support you need.
Signs and symptoms of secondary infertility
Not getting pregnant despite having regular sex without
There are some other signs that may suggest you have fertility issues. In females, these can include:
- changes to your
- heavy or painful periods – this can be a sign of growths in the womb called
In males, there aren’t usually obvious signs of infertility. You may need tests to check for possible fertility problems, such as issues with your
Things that could lead to secondary
- ageing – sperm quality reduces as you get older
- varicocele – enlarged veins in your scrotum, which can affect sperm production
- reduced testosterone – due to ageing, injury or certain medical conditions
- prostate problems or removal – can lead to lower sperm count or fertility issues
Find useful information on other areas of infertility with our
Causes of secondary infertility
- problems with ovulation (when an egg is released from an ovary)
- damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
- low-quality semen
Read more about causes of infertility.
However, in about 25% of cases of infertility, there’s no known cause – this is called unexplained infertility.
When to speak to a doctor about secondary infertility
Generally, if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, you should speak to a doctor for advice, whether or not you’ve been pregnant before.
If you’re female and over 35, or you have any underlying conditions, it’s a good idea to get advice earlier than this, as you may be less likely to get pregnant naturally.
Your doctor may be able to refer you for fertility treatment, as well as offering advice about support and counselling, if needed.
There is also online support available. Join
Treatment options for secondary infertility
Any fertility treatments you may be offered will depend on your situation and the reason for your infertility. Possible treatment options include:
- medicines or hormone injections to stimulate ovulation
- intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) – sometimes used as part of IVF, where sperm is injected directly into the egg
Read more about
Having infertility treatment can be emotional, and sometimes physically demanding. There’s no guarantee that it will work, but the treatments are safer than ever, and success rates are improving. You may find it helpful to talk to a fertility counsellor before making any decisions.
Your health questions answered
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