Secondary infertility: Trying to grow your family

After successful pregnancies, many mothers experience secondary infertility, the most common form of female infertility, when trying to grow their families.

And baby makes three…

Successfully forming a family by welcoming a baby into a loving partnership can be one of life’s great joys. So much so that many couples soon decide to expand their families by trying for another baby.

But if time passes and pregnancy continues to elude a couple, many feelings can begin to set in, specifically frustration with a measure of confusion.

Secondary infertility, as this circumstance is known, occurs when a couple is unable to get pregnant (or to successfully carry a child to full term) after a previous birth.

“Every woman reacts to pregnancy differently,” said Dr. Katie Bieber, an OB/GYN with McLaren Macomb. “And pregnancy can have a personally unique effect on a woman’s body, and in many cases, this may affect their ability to get pregnant again.”

You're not alone

Further explained by Dr. Bieber, secondary infertility is the most common form of female infertility in the United States, affecting more than 3 million women. But it still can cause the couple to feel lost and alone.

The inability to get pregnant again can make a couple feel frustrated, angry, confused and maybe scared, depressed or guilty.

“The most important thing to remember in this situation is knowing that you’re not alone,” she said. “Not being able to get pregnant again after already delivering a child can cause a lot of emotions, but this is a very common situation that many couples find themselves in, and it is something a physician can help with.”

There is no one cause of secondary infertility.

The causes can vary, and both partners can be contributors.

A variety of causes

Causes from the female side can include a history of pelvic inflammatory disease, miscarriages, painful periods, irregular cycles or impaired fallopian tubes. For the male, it could be a low or abnormal sperm count, or problems with sperm shape or motility.

Dr. Bieber recommends couples see their physicians before trying to get pregnant again, and also to track how long and frequently they have been trying.

“There’s no need to get discouraged right from the start—stress won’t help the situation,” Dr. Bieber said. “If couples have been trying for over a year with no success, or six months if they are over the age of 35, that’s when they should consider following up with their physician.

“It’s at that point that an OB/GYN like myself may assist with a treatment option, or depending on their specific situation, we may refer them to a fertility specialist.”

Treatment options

Treatments may include fertility medications or injections, or perhaps a minor surgical procedure to repair a fallopian tube.

“Being unable to get pregnant again does not mean the couple is doing anything wrong,” Dr. Bieber said. “It’s something many, many couples experience.

“Having a family and adding to it is a joy for countless couples, and we’ll do everything we can to help patients so they can continue to grow their families.”


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