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.
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.
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!
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!