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Let’s talk secondary infertility

Let’s Talk Secondary Infertility

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Secondary infertility is more common than you may think – and just like all cases of infertility, sperm health can play a key role. Here we’ll explain what secondary fertility is and outline some of the key causes for men. 

What is secondary infertility? 

Secondary infertility refers to cases where people who are already parents struggle to conceive again. The NHS defines it as when ‘someone has had 1 or more pregnancies in the past, but is having difficulty conceiving again.’ Primary infertility is when you are trying to get pregnant and have never had a child. 

Secondary infertility can occur whether you had an easy journey to having your previous children or not. Many people who get pregnant naturally and easily the first time around assume that they will have no issues when they try to conceive again. However, that’s sadly not always the case. For some people who have had children with a previous partner, they can find that things don’t go as swimmingly when they’re with someone new. However, even couples who conceived together can struggle the second time around. 

Secondary infertility is just as common as primary infertility, with around 1 in 7 couples who are already parents, struggling to conceive further down the line. 

What causes secondary infertility in men? 

Everyone’s experience with infertility is unique, but these are a few common causes of secondary infertility. 

Existing Issues 

If you struggled to conceive the first time around, it could be that the same issues you were experiencing then are rearing their head now. Whether it’s conditions like PCOS or endometriosis in women or issues with sperm quality caused by things like varicoceles or blockages, sadly it is more common for secondary infertility to follow primary infertility. 

However, the benefit is that you will be empowered with knowledge, have a medical team that understands your history and be ready to navigate the challenges that may come your way.  


Age is a really common root cause of secondary infertility – and it makes sense. Many people are waiting longer to start a family, with the average age of becoming a first-time parent now creeping into the early thirties. Fertility decreases with age and with most people leaving it a couple of years before trying to expand their family, it’s understandable it might be harder to conceive the second time around as you get older. 

There’s been plenty written about the decrease in female fertility after the age of 35, but men are not exempt from the sands of time. Whilst the decline in fertility is not as sharp for guys, both testosterone levels and sperm quality do get lower as we get older. Research indicates that for men the optimal time to try to conceive is under 40, so if you are heading towards your 5th decade, this could be causing some issues. You can read more about Age and Male Fertility here. 

Lifestyle Changes

We all know how important a healthy lifestyle is for fertility. Eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight and boost your chances of getting pregnant. But, that’s not always easy to achieve if you have a busy lifestyle – and no one is busier than parents of babies or toddlers! 

First-time would-be Dads have plenty of time to throw everything into getting their sperm health up to scratch before trying to conceive, but that’s not always the case one child later. You may have noticed that your lifestyle isn’t as healthy nowadays, and that could potentially be impacting your sperm quality and triggering fertility issues.  

The good news is that many men who dedicate themselves to a healthier lifestyle see an improvement in their fertility in a fairly short space of time – usually around 3-6 months, so if you make some changes now, you could get things back on track soon! 

Medical Conditions 

Even if you didn’t have any medical conditions the first time you tried to conceive, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have developed since you became a parent. You could have a previously undiscovered varicocele or could have suffered an infection that has caused inflammation in the testicles. It’s important to never rule anything out and to share any medical concerns with your doctor so they can investigate fully. 

Of course, you could have suffered a more critical condition since becoming a Dad, such as cancer. Cancer treatment can trigger infertility in previously healthy men, but hopefully your medical team would have advised you to freeze some sperm ahead of treatment. You can read more about Cancer and Fertility here.  

Why test your sperm if you’re struggling with secondary infertility

It’s so easy for men to assume that the issue doesn’t lie with them – especially if they have already fathered children. However, as this blog proves, there are plenty of reasons why your sperm quality could have declined since then. Fertility is a team sport, so it’s really important to take responsibility for your part of the equation and proactively investigate your sperm health. 

A lot of the time a sperm test can put your mind at ease and rule out poor sperm quality as a factor. However, if your test results do flag some issues, it will give you time to try to improve your sperm health through lifestyle or investigate any other problems that could be causing low sperm quality. 

Our at-home test makes it easier than ever to get your sperm analysed. You can do it in the comfort of your own home and get results and support in minutes – perfect for busy parents who don’t have time to get to a fertility clinic!

Whether you are just starting to consider expanding your family or are struggling with secondary infertility, check out our at-home sperm test today, to take the next step in your fertility journey.  

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Wearing tight pants and underwear

Studies show that men who wear looser underwear have higher sperm concentration and total sperm count compared to men who wear tighter underwear. So, lose the tight clothes and wear something loose to give your testicles some air.

CONCLUSION: learn more about how heat can affect sperm quality here.


Besides higher mortality rate and various diseases, stress is associated with low sperm quality. Stress is known to be associated with lower testosterone levels and oxidative stress with both playing an essential role in producing and maintaining healthy sperm cells.

CONCLUSION: If you feel stressed, we recommend you get some help so you can have a balanced mental health. For a stress management guide, download the ExSeed app for free and start your personalized action plan today.

Physical activity

Scientific studies show that men who are physically active have better semen parameters than men who are inactive. Fertility specialists also state that regular physical activity has beneficial impact on sperm fertility parameters and such a lifestyle can enhance the fertility status of men.

Prioritizing exercise can help improve your overall health and result in healthy, fast swimming sperm cells that have good chances of fertilizing an egg.

CONCLUSION: Try incorporating exercise in your weekly schedule to you ensure exercising at least twice weekly. We recommend a combination of cardio training and strength exercise. Read more about exercise and male fertility on our blog.


Fast Food
Processed foods damage the health of sperm-producing cells and cause oxidative stress, which lead to poorer sperm quality. Heavy consumption of junk food (every week) can increase the likelihood of infertility since men who consume vast amounts of unhealthy food are at risk of having poor sperm quality. Besides harming your fertility, junk food enlarges your waistline, harms your cardiovascular system, kidneys, and more.

Eating more fruit and vegetables can increase your sperm concentration and motility. It’s important that you consume a healthy diet filled with antioxidants and that you eat vegetables every day. Foods such as apricots and red bell peppers are high in vitamin A, which improves male fertility by nurturing healthier sperm. Men who are deficient in this vitamin tend to have slow and sluggish sperm.

Sugary snacks/beverages: several times a week Excessive consumption of high sugar items can lead to oxidative stress, which negatively impacts testosterone levels and sperm motility. Sugary snacks and beverages are also highly associated with obesity and low fertility.
CONCLUSION: To boost sperm quality, stay away from fast food, processed food, and sugary snacks or beverages. You need to implement a healthy prudent diet filled with necessary superfoods needed for good sperm production. Check out our guide to Male Fertility Superfoods. For personalized guidance and support on how you can start improving your sperm health, check out the Bootcamp.


Direct heat can inhibit optimal sperm production and cause Sperm DNA damage. Sperm cells like environments that are a couple of degrees lower than body temperature. Avoid overheating from warm blankets, seat warmers, heat from your laptop, hot showers, and saunas.

Cigarette smoking

The exposure to tobacco smoke has significant negative effects on semen quality. The damage of cigarettes and nicotine of course depends on how many cigarettes you smoke per day and for how long, but even low usage (up to 10 cigarettes / day) can inhibit healthy sperm production.  

CONCLUSION: Stay as far away from cigarette smoking as possible if you care about your general health and your fertility. Read more here.

Cell phone

When you have your cell phone in your front pocket, your testicles are exposed to electromagnetic radiation, which studies have shown to damage the sperm cells. Put your phone in the back pocket of your pants or in your jacket pocket.


There is a clear association between obesity and reduced sperm quality. At least part of the reason for this is that obese men may have abnormal reproductive hormonal profiles, which can impair sperm production and lead to infertility. 

A BMI higher than 30 can lead to several processes in the body (overheating, increase in oxidative stress in the testes, sperm DNA damage, erectile dysfunction) that can have a negative impact on male fertility. This can result in problems when trying to conceive.  

CONCLUSION: BMI is one of the risk factors that influence semen quality and, for example, sperm motility.  


A beer or glass of wine now and then do not really harm sperm quality. But excess alcohol drinking (more than 20 units per week) can reduce the production of normally formed sperm needed for a successful pregnancy.

CONCLUSION: If you want to stay safe, stay under 14 units of alcohol per week. For more information on how alcohol can affect male fertility, take a look at our blog: “Alcohol and Sperm Quality”.


Studies show that women younger than 35 and men younger than 40 have a better chance of getting pregnant. Men can produce sperm cells almost through their entire life, but the sperm cell DNA is more fragile and prone to damage after the age of 40.

As men age, their testes tend to get smaller and softer resulting in a decline in sperm quality and production. These changes are partly because of an age-related decrease in testosterone level, which plays a very important role in sperm

production. Higher male age (>40 years) is not only associated with a decline in sperm production but also with increased sperm DNA fragmentation and worsened morphology (shape) and motility (movement). These negative effects make the sperm cells less qualified for egg fertilization.

CONCLUSION: with an age under 40, you shouldn’t have to worry much about age as a factor in itself. However, studies have shown a slow decline after the age of 30-35 years

and if you are above 40 years of age, your sperm quality can be affected due to increased sperm DNA damage resulting in a decrease of sperm motility and concentration. Remember that you cannot evaluate the quality of a sperm sample by just looking at it – this requires a sperm analysis.