Secondary Infertility: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

by | Apr 30, 2023 | Fertility

What is Secondary Infertility?

Secondary infertility is the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after having had a previous successful pregnancy. It might come as a surprise, but did you know that secondary infertility affects about one in eight couples? That’s right – it’s more common than you might know.

Also Read: What is Infertility

What is Unexplained Secondary Infertility:

In some cases, couples may face secondary infertility with no apparent cause. This is known as unexplained secondary infertility. Can you imagine how frustrating it must be to not know the reason behind your struggle to conceive? It’s like searching for a needle in a haystack, but the needle seems to be invisible.

Despite the frustration, it’s important to remember that unexplained secondary infertility doesn’t mean there’s no hope. In fact, many couples eventually go on to have a successful pregnancy with the help of fertility treatments or by simply giving it more time.

Also read: What is Unexplained Infertility

Signs & Symptoms of Secondary Infertility:

It’s crucial to be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with secondary infertility so that you can take action as soon as possible. Here are some key indicators to look out for:

  • Irregular Menstrual Cycles: If you notice that your periods have become irregular or more painful, this could be a sign of an underlying issue that’s affecting your fertility. It’s essential to consult your healthcare provider if you notice any changes in your menstrual cycle.
  • Changes in Semen Quality: For men, changes in semen quality or quantity can indicate a potential fertility issue. A semen analysis can provide valuable information about sperm health and help identify any problems.
  • Difficulty Conceiving: The most obvious sign of secondary infertility is difficulty conceiving after trying for a year or more (or six months for women over 35). If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to seek professional advice from a fertility specialist.


Causes of Secondary Infertility in Women

Just like putting together a puzzle, understanding the causes of secondary infertility in women can be a complex task. Here are some common factors that may contribute to this issue:

  • Age-Related Decline in Fertility: As women age, their fertility naturally declines. This can be a significant factor in secondary infertility, as the quality and quantity of eggs decrease over time. Who would have thought that something as simple as the passage of time could have such a profound impact on our fertility?
  • Tubal Issues: Blocked or damaged fallopian tubes can prevent sperm from reaching the egg, making it difficult to conceive. Pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis, and previous ectopic pregnancies can all contribute to tubal problems.
  • Uterine or Cervical Problems: Abnormalities in the uterus or cervix, such as fibroids, polyps, or scar tissue, can create an unwelcoming environment for a fertilized egg, leading to secondary infertility.

Also Read: Female Infertility

Causes of Secondary Infertility in Men

Men are not immune to secondary infertility either. Let’s explore some of the factors that can contribute to this issue in men:

  • Sperm Production Issues: Problems with sperm production can be a major cause of secondary infertility in men. Factors like infections, varicoceles, and hormonal imbalances can all negatively impact sperm count, quality, and motility.
  • Obstruction or Blockages: Blockages in the male reproductive tract, such as in the epididymis or vas deferens, can prevent sperm from reaching the ejaculate. These blockages can result from previous infections, surgeries, or congenital conditions.
  • Lifestyle Factors: Did you know that lifestyle choices can play a significant role in male fertility? Factors like smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and poor diet can all contribute to secondary infertility in men.

Also Read: Male Infertility

Diagnosing Secondary Infertility:

When it comes to diagnosing secondary infertility, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. A variety of tests may be needed to identify the root cause of the issue. Here are some of the most common tests used to diagnose secondary infertility:

  • Semen Analysis: A semen analysis can provide valuable insight into a man’s sperm health, including count, motility, and morphology. This test is often the first step in evaluating male fertility.
  • Hormone Testing: Hormone testing is crucial for both men and women, as hormonal imbalances can impact fertility. Blood tests can assess levels of hormones like follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), and prolactin.
  • Hysterosalpingogram (HSG): An HSG is a type of X-ray that examines the fallopian tubes and uterus. This test can help identify blockages or abnormalities that may be contributing to secondary infertility in women.
  • Laparoscopy: In some cases, a laparoscopy may be necessary to get a closer look at the reproductive organs. This minimally invasive surgical procedure allows doctors to examine the pelvic area for issues like endometriosis or adhesions that may be contributing to secondary infertility in women.
  • Genetic Testing: Sometimes, genetic factors can play a role in secondary infertility. Genetic testing can help identify chromosomal abnormalities or specific genetic conditions that may be impacting fertility in both men and women.


Treatment Options for Secondary Infertility

When it comes to treating secondary infertility, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Each couple’s situation is unique, and a personalized approach is crucial. Here are some common treatment options that can help address secondary infertility:

  • Fertility Medications: Fertility medications, such as Clomid or Femara, can help stimulate ovulation in women facing secondary infertility. These drugs may also be used in conjunction with intrauterine insemination (IUI) for an even greater chance of success.
  • Intrauterine Insemination (IUI): IUI is a procedure where sperm is placed directly into the uterus, bypassing the cervix and increasing the chances of fertilization. IUI can be an effective treatment for couples with mild male factor infertility or unexplained secondary infertility.
  • In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): IVF is an advanced fertility treatment that involves combining eggs and sperm in a laboratory setting, then transferring the resulting embryos into the woman’s uterus. IVF can be a successful option for couples facing secondary infertility due to issues like tubal damage, severe male factor infertility, or unexplained infertility.


Can You Get Pregnant with Secondary Infertility at 40?

So, you’re wondering if it’s possible to get pregnant with secondary infertility at 40? The answer is yes! While age does play a significant role in fertility, there’s still hope for couples in their 40s. Advances in fertility treatments, such as IVF and donor eggs, have made it possible for many women to conceive and have healthy pregnancies even in their 40s.

Of course, it’s important to have realistic expectations and understand that the journey may be more challenging due to age-related declines in fertility. But, with perseverance and the guidance of a skilled fertility specialist, many couples can achieve their dreams of parenthood at 40 and beyond.


Primary vs. Secondary Infertility: What’s the Difference?

While both primary and secondary infertility involves challenges in conceiving, there’s a key difference between the two. Let’s break it down:

  1. Primary Infertility: Primary infertility refers to couples who have never been able to conceive, despite having regular, unprotected intercourse for at least one year (or six months for women over 35). In other words, it’s the first time a couple is facing fertility challenges.
  2. Secondary Infertility: On the other hand, secondary infertility is when a couple has previously had a successful pregnancy but is now struggling to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term. It’s like running a marathon, crossing the finish line, and then realizing you have another race to complete.

While the emotional impact of primary and secondary infertility may be similar, the experiences of couples facing these challenges can differ significantly. Couples with secondary infertility may feel a unique sense of guilt or confusion, wondering why they’re struggling to conceive when they’ve done so before.



Secondary infertility can be a challenging and emotionally difficult experience for couples who have already had a successful pregnancy. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including age, health issues, and lifestyle choices, and can often be treated through various medical interventions.

However, it’s important for couples to seek out the help of a fertility specialist to identify the underlying cause of their infertility and explore their treatment options. Additionally, seeking out support from family, friends, or a support group can be helpful in coping with the emotional toll that secondary infertility can take.

Ultimately, while secondary infertility may present unique challenges, it’s important for couples to remember that they are not alone in their struggle and that there are resources available to help them achieve their goal of expanding their family.



Q: What are the signs of secondary infertility?

A: Signs of secondary infertility may include difficulty getting pregnant after previously having a successful pregnancy, changes in menstrual cycles, and abnormal vaginal discharge.

Q: What could cause secondary infertility?

A: There are several factors that could contribute to secondary infertility, including age, health conditions, lifestyle choices, and certain medical treatments.

Q: What age is secondary infertility?

A: Secondary infertility can occur at any age, but it is more common in women over the age of 35.

Q: What is secondary infertility?

A: Secondary infertility is the inability in women to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after previously having a successful pregnancy.

Q: Can secondary infertility be cured?

A: The underlying causes of secondary infertility can often be treated with medical interventions, such as fertility drugs or assisted reproductive technologies, but a cure is not always possible.

Q: How can I increase my secondary fertility?

A: Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol, can help increase the chances of conceiving. Additionally, seeking the help of a fertility specialist may be necessary.

Q: How can I treat secondary infertility at home?

A: While there are no proven home remedies for treating secondary infertility, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and reducing stress levels can help improve overall fertility.

Q: What are 4 causes for female infertility?

A: Four common causes of female infertility include hormonal imbalances, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.

Q: How do you test for secondary infertility?

A: Testing for secondary infertility may involve a series of medical exams and tests, including a physical examination, blood tests, and imaging studies, such as an ultrasound or hysterosalpingogram.

Q: What is the best fertility age?

A: The best fertility age for women is typically in their 20s and early 30s, as fertility declines as women age.

Q: How successful is IUI for secondary infertility?

A: The success rate of IUI for secondary infertility depends on various factors, including the age of the woman, the underlying cause of infertility, and the quality of the sperm used.

Q: Is secondary infertility common?

A: Secondary infertility is becoming more common, as more couples delay starting a family until later in life. However, it is still less common than primary infertility.

Q: Can stress cause secondary infertility?

A: While stress can contribute to infertility by affecting hormonal levels and ovulation, it is unlikely to directly cause secondary infertility.

Q: How successful is IVF for secondary infertility?

A: The success rate of IVF for secondary infertility depends on various factors, including the age of the woman, the underlying cause of infertility, and the quality of the embryos used.

Q: How long should we try to conceive before seeking help?

A: If you are under the age of 35 and have been trying to conceive for at least a year without success, it is recommended that you seek the help of a fertility specialist. For women over the age of 35, seeking help after six months of trying is recommended.

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    Dr Mona Dahiya

    Dr Mona Dahiya

    IVF Specialist & Consultant

    Dr Mona Dahiya has performed over 5,000+ IVF cycles and is considered a global expert in IVF, ICSI, IUI and male fertility treatment. She is an eminent writer on Infertility Treatment and has over 100 Publications in both International and National Journals. Dr Mona Dahiya has immensely contributed to the field of infertility through her Research and articles.

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