The fact is, secondary infertility can be linked to issues in either partner, and covering your bases with best practices is always a smart first step. Not only does it give you some sense of control in a situation that’s largely out of anyone’s control, there’s evidence that certain lifestyle changes can really help.
We’re shining a light on the causes and treatments of this lesser-known fertility issue, with simple, actionable things you can both do to improve your chances of growing your family. Chin up, and read on!
- Secondary infertility describes the inability to conceive or carry pregnancy to term after successfully conceiving and giving birth in the past.
- Causes of infertility can stem from either partner, with one third linked to women, one third linked to men, and one third linked to both partners or unknown causes.
- In women, secondary infertility can be related to age, weight gain, or health conditions like PCOS or endometriosis.
- In men, secondary infertility can be related to age, weight gain, and conditions like low testosterone or an enlarged or removed prostate.
What causes secondary infertility?
Secondary infertility is just what it sounds like — the inability to become pregnant or successfully carry a pregnancy to term after you’ve previously done just that. And while society still insists on largely blaming women anytime a couple experiences fertility issues, the problem stems pretty equally from both men and women.
According to WebMD, about one third of all cases are related to the female partner, another third stem from an issue with the male partner, and the remaining third are linked to both partners or simply unknown causes.
In women, secondary infertility can be the result of:
- Age. Over 35? Unfortunately, hormonal changes and an increased risk of certain diseases can begin impacting fertility.
- Weight gain. Rapid weight gain, especially in high amounts, can trigger ovarian dysfunction by creating insulin resistance and boosting testosterone levels. Implantation rates also drop in women who are over or underweight.
- Endometriosis. This chronic inflammatory reaction in the pelvis means tissue grows outside the uterus, which can make it much harder to become or stay pregnant.
- PCOS. Polycystic ovary syndrome affects 1 in 10 women, and it’s one of the most common causes of infertility.
- Blocked fallopian tubes. Pelvic infections from STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhea can create blockages in the fallopian tubes, preventing eggs from moving to the uterus from the ovaries.
There’s some overlap for secondary infertility causes in men, but, as you might imagine, other reasons are gender-specific:
- Age. Men aren’t immune to the ticking of the biological clock. Sperm quality begins to nosedive after around age 45.
- Weight gain. In men, too much body weight can mean higher estrogen levels, which creates a lower sperm count.
- Low testosterone (hypogonadism). Men need this hormone for sperm production.
- Enlarged or removed prostate. Prostate issues can reduce sperm count, restrict ejaculation, and generally mess with sperm function.
Both partners can also experience secondary infertility with specific lifestyle habits — if you smoke, drink, or use recreational drugs, you’re playing fast and loose with your reproductive processes.
Can secondary infertility be treated?
In some cases, yes. If you’re reading this and the reality of your less-than-ideal lifestyle is sinking in, taking steps to clean up your act can have a huge impact on your fertility health. Both partners will benefit from eating a varied, nutrient-rich diet, curbing alcohol use, committing to regular exercise, getting better sleep, minimizing stress wherever possible, and, the hands-down easiest option, filling nutrition gaps with a high-quality prenatal vitamin. Think about it — swapping the daily multivitamin or starting a vitamin habit is quick and easy. And when the goal is another baby, a steady influx of all the right nutrients in all the forms and all the right amounts is just what your bodies need to optimize fertility.
Need a suggestions? Both our women’s and men’s prenatal vitamins are science-aligned formulas designed to support female and male fertility. They’re also plant based, vegan, free of GMO ingredients, and made in an FDA-registered, cGMP facility. In other words — we aren’t cutting any corners here.
Medical causes of secondary infertility for both men and women may also be treatable, so if you’re prioritizing a healthy lifestyle and still struggling to conceive, don’t wait too long to see a doctor or fertility specialist. That’s particularly true if you’re a woman over age 35 or a man over 45.
The bottom line
When it comes to secondary infertility, there is some good news. You’re more likely to successfully have another baby if you’ve already done it before. Take reassurance from that, do what you can to prioritize leading a healthy lifestyle — including taking high-quality prenatal vitamins — and consult an expert sooner rather than later.