The Mayo Clinic defines secondary infertility as the inability of a couple to get pregnant again within a specific time frame, despite past pregnancy. Resolve: The National Infertility Organization’s definition is “the inability to get pregnant naturally or carry a pregnancy to term after successfully conceiving one or more children.” While many parenting blogs only talk about couples with at least one biological child, if you’ve conceived in the past but can’t now, you have secondary infertility, regardless of the outcome of past pregnancies.
For many of us, secondary infertility results from another problem. My diagnosis was simple — my nurse practitioner suspected thyroid disease as soon as I told her I wasn’t pregnant again after two years of “not trying not to.”
Treatment was also simple: thyroid replacement therapy, increased dosage, and regular screening. Unfortunately, this is where I experienced my biggest struggle: month after month of conceiving without implanting or carrying a pregnancy to term. Sadly, this symptom of hypothyroidism is extremely common. I lucked out after six months — but next time may not be so easy.
Secondary infertility is one of many effects attributed to “advanced maternal age.” Unfortunately for my self image, this is as low as 35. I was completely horrified to see “geriatric pregnancy” on my chart, but it turns out that one quarter of women may already have age-related infertility by 36. Like it or not, our eggs don’t know that “50 is the new 30” — their quality and quantity diminishes, no matter how healthy and young we act, look, and feel.
For the ladies, new conditions may arise after pregnancy. Many hormonal imbalances, including hypothyroidism, can appear at any point in life, worsen with age, and impact fertility. Endometriosis or iatrogenic (“medically caused”) effects — like scarring after cesarean birth — may also be to blame. Lifestyle issues like obesity and smoking, as well as untreated sexually transmitted infections (STI), can impact fertility on either side of a couple.
Recognizing Secondary Infertility
Your doctor may diagnose infertility if you’re under 35 and not pregnant after one year of trying; over 35 and not pregnant within 6 months; or after two or more consecutive miscarriages. A history of STI, endometriosis, or menstrual irregularities may mean earlier diagnosis.
Treating the Problem
If you’re facing secondary infertility:
- · Have a TSH test for thyroid disease, one of the leading causes of secondary infertility;
- · Chart your menstrual cycles. Knowing your pattern can help you and your doctor get straight to the source of the problem, instead of wasting time, money, and emotional resources exploring all the “maybes.”
This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the advice of a licensed medical practitioner. It is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease.