Secondary Infertility: The Big Surprise

Imagine this scenario: you and your partner have been together for a decade and had three lovely children together in that time. As time goes on, your happy family decides that another bundle of joy would only make your short time on this earth even more precious.

So, you and your partner go through the old routine. In the past, it’s taken two or maybe three tries before you got that pregnancy test strip to turn pink (or give a plus sign, have two bars, or whatever your favored brand does).

You try for a couple of months and think, “well, definitely next month, then.” So you try for a couple more months. And then a couple more. Before you know it, a year has passed with no sign of a baby.

Chances are you’re experiencing secondary infertility.

What is secondary infertility and how do I know if I have it?

Secondary infertility or, as we like to call it, “the big surprise” simply means you’re unable to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term after you’ve already given birth without any medical assistance.

If a couple with other children does their “baby dance” right on time every month for a year with no results or with multiple miscarriages, the couple is experiencing secondary infertility.

What causes secondary infertility?

Secondary infertility comes about for most of the same reasons as regular infertility: a low sperm count, damaged fallopian tubes, endometriosis, or any number of other causes.

In addition, couples who’ve already had children carry a couple of additional risk factors:

  1. Potential damage to the reproductive system from previous pregnancies, and
  2. Age-related infertility (if the woman and/or the man are over the age of 35).

About a third of the time, secondary infertility is because of a female factor. Another third of the time it’s from a malefactor. The rest are situations where either both partners are contributing to infertility or the infertility is unexplained.

What are my options?

The first choice you have to make is whether to seek fertility treatment or not. The success of fertility treatments for a woman drops dramatically each year between the ages of 35 and 42, so if you’re an older couple you may have a hard road ahead if you pursue treatment.

Younger couples, of course, may have higher rates of success.


One of the most common feelings for parents with secondary infertility is “I never thought this would happen to me.” After all, you’ve got a proven track record, right?

In some ways, struggling with fertility after you already have children can be just as emotionally challenging – or even more challenging – than if you’d never had children.

The best way to move forward is to talk to your doctor and find out what your options are. It may be as simple as a couple of months of fertility medications, or you might need to have more advanced procedures like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) if you want to have another child.

Like primary infertility, secondary infertility doesn’t mean it’s the end of the line. It just means you may have to be a little more patient and invest more energy, time, and money this time around to get pregnant.