Secondary Infertility: Causes & Treatments

Although secondary infertility accounts for nearly one third of infertility cases, the topic tends to lurk in the shadows of public conversation. Diagnosed when a couple who has previously had biological children without medical assistance is unable to get pregnant or to successfully carry a pregnancy to term after a year of trying, the condition can leave adults feeling guilty, confused and frustrated. But, doctors can offer hope thanks to a variety of treatments that can help couples battling secondary infertility overcome whatever issue is triggering their difficulties.

Primary and secondary infertility often share similar causes. Maternal age can be a concern because a woman’s ovarian function declines over time. Lifestyle issue like being overweight or smoking can also interfere with the male or female reproductive system’s ability to function effectively. Structural difficulties, medical conditions and even medications prescribed can cause problems for both men and women.

“The chances of overcoming secondary infertility depend on the fertility factors involved; therefore it is very individualized,” explains Dr. Shahryar Kavoussi, the medical director of Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine/Westlake IVF. In cases of secondary infertility, doctors look for what has changed since the birth of the couple’s child. Treatment depends on the cause of the problem. Fertility medications can be used to increase ovarian function.  Lifestyle or medication changes may be recommended. Intrauterine insemination (IUI), during which the man’s sperm is placed in the woman’s uterus during ovulation, and in vitro fertilization (IVF), which involves placing an embryo in the woman’s uterus, can be utilized to overcome certain structural problems or issues with sperm quality.  Donor eggs or sperm can be considered if the quality of either is proving to be a barrier. “If the woman is in her early to mid-30’s and has good oocyte quantity and quality, her chances for pregnancy are very good with fertility treatment”, adds Dr. Shahryar Kavoussi.

In men, secondary infertility is often indicative of a process that causes deterioration of sperm parameters over time, but surgery to correct structural problems can be an option for certain male patients. It can be particularly effective in correcting a varicocele, an abnormal dilation of the scrotal veins that impacts testicular function and can damage the DNA in sperm and lower sperm quality. “When a varicocele is the main cause of a man’s secondary infertility, surgical repair can improve sperm parameters in 70 percent of patients. Most will also see better DNA health in their sperm cells,” says Dr. Parviz Kavoussi, a specialist in male infertility, sexual medicine and microsurgery. “These improvements result in higher pregnancy rates, even when other techniques to aid conception are necessary.”

Both Dr. Shahryar Kavoussi and Dr. Parviz Kavoussi are proud to practice at Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine/Westlake IVF, the lone fertility center in central Texas that has in-house fellowship trained specialists in male and female infertility and reproductive medicine. Board certified in both obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility, Dr. Shahryar Kavoussi is a six-time winner of the “Patients’ Choice Award.” He provides a wide range of fertility treatments including intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF), and da Vinci robot-assisted tubal reversals. Board certified by the American Board of Urology, Dr. Parviz Kavoussi has been chosen to serve as an expert for peer reviews of multiple manuscripts and was the editor-in-chief of the first edition of the textbook “Clinical Urologic Endocrinology: Principles for Men’s Health.” He provides an array of male fertility treatments including sperm retrievals, varicocele repairs, and mini-incision microscopic and da Vinci robot-assisted vasectomy reversals.

For a personal consultation regarding secondary infertility, call Austin Fertility and Reproductive Medicine/Westlake IVF at (512) 444-1414.