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Why Secondary Infertility Means See a Fertility Doctor Sooner

Couple holding hands

a blog by Kim Griffiths, July 25, 2013

In today’s New York Times, Sarah Muthler shares her personal experience with secondary infertility and some of the misconceptions amongst couples who have given birth once before, but are currently struggling to have another baby. Like many diagnosed with secondary infertility, Muthler and her husband honestly believed their difficulty conceiving was all in their heads.

The truth is that couples have a 20% chance of conceiving each month, and that is without any sort of planning, charting, or timing. Primary infertility becomes a concern when a woman under the age of 35 has been trying to conceive for one year without success, and a woman over the age of 35 has been trying for six months. However, if you have had a child previously, there may not be a need to delay more than three to six months before seeking a fertility evaluation.

Secondary infertility is classified as difficulty conceiving or carrying a pregnancy to term after successfully conceiving and carrying one or more children. There is often a misconception that because a couple has conceived in the past, they will be able to conceive at any time in the future. Unlike primary infertility, secondary infertility is more difficult to diagnose due to the fact that couples hesitate to seek treatment. Often, they feel guilty for their desire to have another child and settle on the idea that maybe their family of three was meant to be.

Before receiving an official diagnosis of secondary infertility, a couple having trouble conceiving is subject to plenty of unsolicited advice from family and friends. The inability to have a child after already having one or more children may put strain on interpersonal relationships, and cause couples to put off major life events like taking a new job or traveling. There may be a greater sense of confusion and doubt: “Do we really need fertility treatment since we had one child in the past? Are we wasting money? Maybe this will happen if we just try a little longer.” Having a child or children in the past does not guarantee a person’s ability to have more children. Couples seeking a fertility evaluation sooner than later are provided peace of mind and a game plan for family building.

Here are some of the benefits to seeking a fertility evaluation for secondary infertility:

  • You will be given a formal diagnosis and confirmation that this is NOT “just in your head” (or good news that you just have to perfect your timing with tips to do so.)
  • You will be able to devise a family building plan: fertility treatments, adoption, egg donation, surrogacy, living child-free.
  • You will gain confidence for addressing the unwelcomed advice of friends and family members. If you choose to share information about your diagnosis, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that others are experiencing similar struggles. Know-it-all advice may even change to sensitivity and general concern for the success of your family building journey.

Remember, there is no shame in wanting another child. Only you and your partner can truly decide when you have finished building your family and there is no commitment to fertility treatment required. Utilize resources like the Patient Care Advocates at for learning more about fertility doctors who specialize in secondary infertility, and gain support from community members on

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