Causes Of Secondary Infertility? What You Should Know?

Causes Of Secondary Infertility

Secondary infertility has been known to affect millions of parents in the United States. What is important to note here is that even men can face secondary infertility issues. This very fact has provoked curiosity to the point of understanding what causes this problem in both men and women, as well as the factors giving rise to the same.

Secondary Infertility In Female – Causes And Symptoms

Secondary Infertility in Female

Defining Secondary Infertility

As explained above, secondary infertility refers to the inability to become pregnant and bear a child to term after previously delivering one. Considered to be one of the issues affecting female fertility at large, secondary infertility has been significantly disrupting the chances for future pregnancy after previously delivering a child. This is specifically concerning for those couples who are seeking more than one or two children to make a complete family. Secondary infertility in such a case can prove highly painful for this group of couples.

What Causes Secondary Infertility in Women?

As of note, an unassisted birth without medications or assisted treatments, such as IVF has been identified to be the main cause of secondary infertility. This issue is just as alarming as its primary counterpart in that it affects about 11% of couples in the US. Secondary infertility is diagnosed in partners when they face difficulty in conceiving for six months to a year. This being stated, the more common causes of secondary infertility in females have so far included the following:

  • Age.
  • Impaired sperm/eggs.
  • Complications associated with previous surgery.
  • Problems and complexities related to previous pregnancy.
  • Increased BMI (body mass index).
  • Medications.
  • Other medical conditions.
  • STIs (Sexually transmitted infections).
  • Lifestyle factors (such as tobacco, alcohol, and smoking).

While those listed above are considered to be highly common in secondary infertility, there are others, which cannot be avoided due to their potential to cause this particular issue. To this end, these have included:

It happens in that category of women who have been born with a limited supply of eggs and are having issues with producing/creating new eggs. This problem is so grave that by the time a woman reaches 40, the quantity of eggs drastically decreases with the fewer ones remaining to have higher chances of a chromosomal abnormality. As such, autoimmune disorders, certain genetic conditions, and prior surgery or radiation therapy all have a play in imparting secondary infertility in women. 

These include the scars or blockages causing damage to the fallopian tubes and uterus. Infections and any previous surgery are the prime culprits in this regard. As such, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and PID (pelvic inflammatory diseases) come under this category, and these are likely to cause blockages to the fallopian tubes. Likewise, certain procedures like D&C (dilatation and curettage) and cesarean sections can lead to significant structural changes due to the scarring, also impairing the function of the uterus and the fallopian tubes. Problems brought forth by these changes can, in turn, impact the chances of pregnancy. Similarly, uterine fibroids/polyps due to their potential to block the uterus, can also impact fertility and conception.  

Being a hormonal condition, PCOS causes infrequent and irregular menstrual periods. Women with such disorders tend to ovulate poorly or irregularly. PCOS is more than likely to cause problems with conception.  

Endometriosis And Infertility: A tissue that normally grows within the uterus, instead grows elsewhere in the reproductive system, like in the ovaries, or even in other body parts. However, since not all endometrial conditions cause infertility, this cannot be considered a potential contributor to secondary infertility.

Weight gain is another cause of ovarian dysfunction in females, leading to infertility. Of note, certain lifestyle changes can also cause infertility. These obviously include smoking, tobacco, and drinking.

Secondary Infertility In Men – Causes And Factors


For Infertility in Men, secondary infertility presents as decreased semen quality at or after 40 years of age. This is accompanied by low testosterone levels. It would be worth mentioning here that secondary infertility is as common in men as it is in their female counterparts. Sources have suggested that in 15% of the couples facing this issue, it is the male that mostly contributes to the same.


Since testosterone is essential for sperm production, this hormone predominantly decreases due to aging. With age being a predominant factor causing secondary infertility in men (also in women), there do exist other relevant causes as underlined below:

  • Genital Injuries: The one other potential factor causing secondary infertility issues in men is genital injuries. If a man has previously sustained any injuries to his scrotum or penis, this is likely to disrupt sperm production and quality.
  • Varicocele: Caused by distended veins, varicocele accounts for one of the most significant causes of secondary infertility in men. That being stated, one out of five cases presents as secondary infertility due to varicocele.
  • Cancer Therapy: It is obvious that chemo-cum-radiation therapy will affect sperm production. The high-energy radiation beams to the cancer-affected testes will more than likely disrupt sperm production.
  • Unhealthy Habits: These clearly point towards the excess usage of tobacco, as well as drinking and smoking. One’s sperm quality is highly affected by these unhealthy habits, giving rise to secondary infertility in the process.
  • Blood Disorders: These include thalassemia and hemochromatosis which can significantly impact the reproductive mechanism of a male.
  • Toxin Exposure: Certain working atmospheres require men to be highly exposed to toxins like radiation, pesticides, and other harmful chemicals. Even some cancerous tumors in their body require them to undergo chemo/radiation therapy, which can play havoc with their reproductive system, directly or indirectly. Though the impact may not be sudden, these may, in the long term, wreak havoc on sperm production, ultimately leading to secondary infertility.
  • Stress: Men can suffer from a considerable degree of setbacks brought on by stress. These include premature age lines, insomnia, anxiety, and the worst being infertility. For instance, the stress experienced before the birth of one’s child is enough to have it manifest into physical forms, such as lower semen volume with poor quality sperm or no sperm production.


Since sources referred in this context have brought up more or less similar factors to explain secondary infertility in both men and women, these do convey hope in regards to reversing this condition by working on all potential factors that cause this condition in both genders. Since these were listed above, what remains is ways to either prevent or improve on some. Doing so will help reduce the percentage of secondary infertility arising among couples in the coming years. Couples need emotional support during infertility treatment. Of note, these suggestions are for those who are willing to have more children to make a complete family!

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