Even mothers who have conceived before can have trouble becoming pregnant again or carrying a baby to full term. Doctors refer to this common condition as "secondary infertility."

A physician will say a patient is infertile after one year of unprotected, well-timed intercourse that does not result in pregnancy; the doctor could also say a woman is infertile if the patient has suffered multiple miscarriages.

According to the National Infertility Association, approximately 40 percent of infertility is due to a female factor and another 40 percent due to a male factor; in the remaining cases, infertility is the result of problems with both partners or due to unknown causes. Male infertility is often the result of impaired sperm production, function, or delivery. Fallopian tube damage, ovulation disorders, endometriosis and uterine problems are some of the causes of female infertility. Complications from prior pregnancies, advancing age, changes in weight, and the use of certain medications can also cause secondary infertility.

Coping with Secondary Infertility
After becoming pregnant so easily earlier in life, secondary infertility takes some couples by surprise. Some couples facing secondary infertility do not receive the same emotional support as those couples who cannot get pregnant at all. This lack of support frequently leaves those with secondary infertility with an unrecognized sense of loss.

Without proper counseling and medical care, someone facing secondary infertility may experience feelings of guilt, especially if a woman suffers secondary infertility after having an abortion. A parent may feel guilty for not being able to give their child a sibling or for not providing a parent with another grandchild.

Testing and treatment options for secondary infertility are the same as for primary infertility; both the man and the woman need tests to determine his or her fertility. Couples often benefit from the assistance of professionals and support groups when making decisions on how to deal with secondary infertility. A qualified obstetrician can help couples determine the cause of secondary infertility and may be able to provide alternatives, such as the use of fertility drugs, intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and surgery to clear blocked fallopian tubes or remove fibroid tissue. Support groups help couples focus on caring for existing children and can aid with alternative family building methods, including adoption.

Contact a local obstetrician or fertility expert to learn more about secondary infertility including testing and treatment options.