Are You at Risk of Secondary Infertility? Expert Gives Stats

When Andrea Meisgeier gave birth to her son Maxwell, she was 33. Maxwell was conceived so easily that Andrea and her husband didn’t worry about family wellness in terms of the timing of a second pregnancy. However, six years on, Andrea has taken fertility drugs, tried acupuncture and undergone more than $25,000 in fertility treatments that included intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization – none of which were successful.

Andrea says, ‘I have made my first round of peace with it. There is still definite times when you feel there is a lot of mum guilt. My husband and I don’t talk about it a lot. In a sense you feel like you failed your first child. Maybe a piece of it is you feel like you failed yourself.’ According to Diana Wu, a reproductive endocrinologist at the OHSU Centre for Women’s Health, secondary infertility – the inability to get pregnant after having a child – is on the rise.

Wu notes about four million families in America experienced secondary infertility in 2010. Approximately 35% experience problems because of the woman and another 35 percent are due to the man. About 20% are due to both, and 10% never find an explanation. Wu comments that couples ‘don’t realise there could be something wrong and they are busy with work and taking care of their child or baby. They may continue to wait longer,’ before seeking medical help.

Wu cites that 7% of women experience infertility by age 29; 11% by 34, 33% by age 39, 50% by age 41 and 87% by age 44. ‘It’s always shocking to see these numbers, which are a lot lower than what we expect,’ she says, adding ‘In our prime, couples in their early 20s have somewhere between 20 to 25% chance to conceive at best, even in their first month of trying.’ Wu urges couples trying to conceive to see a reproductive specialist after a year of regular unprotected intercourse without conceiving.

As for Meisgeier, she is deeply grateful for her son, but she always imagined having two children who would share their childhood and support each other into adulthood. ‘You feel guilty if you don’t appreciate what you’ve got. Complaining about not having a second child really feels indulgent and guilty,’ she explained. ‘I wish along the way my gynaecologist had reminded me at every single appointment that just because you put your fertility on hold all these years doesn’t mean it’s going to be there when you are 34 or 35.’

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