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Secondary Infertility: The Struggle for a Second Child

We all know the drill. You say, “Let’s have a baby!” and BOOM, one baby, right on schedule. Okay, so maybe we don’t all know this drill – in fact most of us don’t. But for those who do, you might also know the feeling of, “Oh wouldn’t it be nice to give [child number one] a brother or sister.” And then it just…doesn’t happen. But you conceived the first time, why is this different? Enter ‘secondary infertility’.

Most of us are probably under the impression that if you conceive your first child relatively easily, the second won’t be an issue either. Sadly, this is not the case. Infertility – or in this case secondary infertility – is much more common than most of us realise. Many couples have trouble conceiving their second, or even third, child and will have to see a fertility specialist for help and to discuss treatment options. Many of these cases are down to age-related infertility, but the problem is often much less black and white. While your toddler may be celebrating not having to share their toys – it can be truly devastating for many families. 

How does secondary infertility affect people and what causes it?

1 in 8 couples experience infertility issues, and around 50 percent of cases are secondary infertility. Many of the common causes of infertility are universal across primary and secondary infertility. That being said, cesarean sections and age related infertility are widely thought to be the main contributors to secondary infertility. Age-related infertility is more likely to affect sufferers of secondary infertility simply because they are more likely to be older, since they’ve already had a child. There is little evidence to back-up this idea and the scare mongering and suspicion this idea can place on caesareans is worrying. After a cesarean, women are also advised to wait between eighteen and twenty-four months before trying for another baby, and must not conceive during the first year as their body has not had adequate time to heal. Approximately 20 percent of women who gave birth via cesarean section reportedly have difficulties conceiving their second child. This could be a combination of factors as their fertility may have reduced due to age during their recovery period after a cesarean. It is important to note that much of this is speculation and not enough research has been done into the effect of cesareans on fertility to draw an accurate conclusion. As most studies will show, it is a concept filled with “could”, “perhaps” and “maybe”. However, regardless of the stage, the cause of infertility still follows the rule of thirds: one third female infertility, one third male infertility, and one final third undiagnosed infertility.

Next steps

Seeking help for secondary infertility is a very similar process to that of primary infertility and – since most of the causes are the same – so are the treatment options. GP’s are usually a good place to start if you’re unsure how to proceed and there are testing options available to help identify the cause. However, it can be more difficult for those experiencing secondary infertility to access NHS-funded treatments, since already having a child or children often disqualifies them from accessing any treatment options funded by their local CCG. For this reason, secondary infertility often bears a higher financial burden than its predecessor. Private clinics are an option, albeit an expensive one.

Disclaimer: Gender is experienced differently by all, particularly when it comes to our fertility. Our articles are written by a variety of authors, all of whom bring their experiences into their writing. Some articles will reflect these experiences more than others, and our goal is always to create content that represents all families.