Nearly 30% of those diagnosed with infertility are experiencing complications due to secondary infertility. Most have never heard of secondary infertility…you either are fertile or you are not, right? Not exactly. According to the new findings, secondary infertility is quite traumatic and baffling for couples who’ve successfully had one child. There are several factors that come into play when a doctor gives the diagnosis of secondary infertility, and luckily several fertility medications that can help.
One of the largest issues surrounding secondary infertility and its treatment is that couples often wait longer than they should to receive help. The following information gives a good overview of the condition, the fertility drugs used to treat it, as well as the procedures, and offers insight into what options are available.
IVF Medications, Fertility Medications and Secondary Infertility
Time is a large factor when you’re female. That means that the longer you wait to have children, even your second one, the harder it is to become pregnant. This is because your eggs also get older. The same is essentially true for husbands and their sperm count. The bottom line is, the older you are, the older your reproductive organs.
Many who try to overcome secondary infertility turn to IVF drugs and procedures. Your reproductive endocrinologist (RE) may suggest this if there was significant scarring from your first pregnancy. Typical drugs include Menopur, Follistim or Gonal-F, to name a few. These fertility medications are not cheap, so if you do have to go this route, make sure you do your homework. There are reputable online fertility pharmacies that offer the name brand medicines at a huge discount.
Your body may also be producing antibodies that kill sperm. Believe it or not, in some women the semen causes an allergic reaction (autoimmune response) and the body sends out natural killer cells (white cells) to eradicate the intruder. Granted, it is a “war” of attrition since there are so many sperm released at once. Not all sperm will be targeted or killed, but the overall environment will be hostile to conception. How do you find out if this is happening? Believe it or not, there is an antisperm anitibody test that your physician can run to determine if this is the case. A sample of your partner’s sperm is used in this test. The official medical term when this occurs is immunologic infertility. Having said that, it is fairly rare.
Talking About Secondary Infertility
Secondary infertility is not a newly discovered reproductive issue. It has been around as long as primary infertility has. However, many women, who already have had a child previously, often feel badly or guilty discussing their problems when there are many women who are struggling to have their first child. However, experts state that any infertility, regardless of how it has occurred, is difficult to face alone. Luckily, many women are courageously engaging in conversations about this pregnancy and conception concern.
Best Ways to Avoid Secondary Infertility
Many physicians suggest that if a woman knows she wants to have more than one child that she should take the following steps and precautions:
- End breastfeeding of your first child earlier (prior to age 1), and get pregnant sooner.
- If you know you will start a family later, consider freezing your eggs while you are younger.
- Keep the weight off.
- Get regular OB/GYN checkups.
All physicians agree that you should not put off going to the doctor if you are not able to conceive after six months of having unprotected sex, especially if you are over 30 years of age. Additionally, while starting with your family doctor is a good first step, you’ll want to eventually seek out a doctor who specializes in fertility. One of the first things the fertility specialist will ask during your first visit is what has changed since having your last child. They will do blood work, do imaging and check to see how both egg and sperm count are in both of you.
Treating Secondary Infertility: What are your options?
Your first step after receiving your diagnosis is to develop a strategy or plan for correcting problems, if possible. Most common fertility meds for secondary infertility start with an ovarian follicle stimulator medication (Clomid, Letrozole are common), then there may be injectable fertility medications that stimulate the follicles and encourage the eggs to mature. These fertility drugs include follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormones (LH) (Folllistim and Menopur are common name brand fertility meds). Your RE may suggest you consider IVF treatments to give your body the best chances for conception and carrying to term. You should know that most insurance companies do not cover all of the aspects of an IVF treatment, though companies are now offering coverage as part of their incentive packages.
Other options for treating secondary infertility can include (depending on your situation), surgery to remove fibroids, ovarian cysts or adhesions. If you have blocked fallopian tubes or suffer from endometriosis, laparoscopic surgery may be a corrective measure that would work. Each case is different, so while one patient may benefit from surgical intervention, others may not. It is important to get several opinions from several reproductive endocrinologists before you have any procedures done.
Do not avoid seeing a therapist during this time. Feelings of anxiety, anger and sadness are as common among those suffering from secondary infertility as those who are dealing with primary infertility. Meeting with a mental health practitioner can give you a good sounding board for your feelings, especially if you do not feel comfortable discussing these issues with someone else.
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