Dr. Gorka Barrenetxea provides us with a practical case of secondary infertility that occurs more commonly than one may think. A couple, throughout their lifetime, can have children with 20, 25, 30 and 35 years, but when they decide to have a second or third child, they may encounter trouble conceiving due to the passage of time itself, Dr. Barrenetxea states.
The NHS recommends that, after trying and failing to get pregnant for a year, you should see your doctor; if you are over 35, you should go after six months. Help is out there, if you want it, and takes many forms. West stresses the importance of investigating both the women and the men, "even if they have previously had a healthy sperm analysis because situations and lifestyles can change". There is also the alternative therapy route: acupuncture, hypnotherapy, reflexology, meditation. Or, if all else fails, you could, like me, go for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

Around one in 7 couples that require artificial reproductive treatment (ART) have "unexplained" infertility and doctors often first use approaches like ensuring the female partner's ovulation occurs at the same time as natural sex or artificial insemination/intrauterine insemination (IUI). They may then recommend IVF where thousands of the male partner's best sperm are purified and incubated with the egg — this is the preferred initial ART procedure in cases of "unexplained" infertility.


Since marriage is a contract between the wife and husband during the span of their marriage, no third party should intrude into the marital functions of sex and procreation. This means that a third party donor is not acceptable, whether he or she is providing sperm, eggs, embryos, or a uterus. The use of a third party is tantamount to zina, or adultery.
Kym Campbell is a Health Coach and PCOS expert with a strong passion for using evidence-based lifestyle interventions to manage this disorder. Kym combines rigorous scientific analysis with the advice from leading clinicians to disseminate the most helpful PCOS patient-centric information you can find online. You can read more about Kym and her team here.
Connect with your partner. Remember that he is also coping with secondary infertility along with you, and while your partner may be dealing with it differently, it can be extremely helpful to check in with each other emotionally. Set aside some time to talk about how your infertility problems are affecting each of you — that can help you both work through your emotions. Tired of talking about infertility or channeling all your collective energy into that second pregnancy? Plan a date night — totally unrelated to any baby-making duties. Since secondary infertility problems can take a toll on any relationship, date nights are needed now more than ever to keep the love and fun flowing. An added bonus: Since less stress often improves fertility, enjoying just being a couple could even increase your odds of achieving that second pregnancy.
Ovarian hyperstimulation is the stimulation to induce development of multiple follicles of the ovaries. It should start with response prediction by e.g. age, antral follicle count and level of anti-Müllerian hormone.[60] The resulting prediction of e.g. poor or hyper-response to ovarian hyperstimulation determines the protocol and dosage for ovarian hyperstimulation.[60]
Very slight elements of risk are associated with any medical intervention but for IVF the most notable risk in the past has been multiple births. The impact of multiple births on birth weight, premature delivery, and post-natal complications is well known. This is largely due to the practice over the past 30 years of transferring two or more embryos during IVF. Thanks to PGT-A testing and Single Embryo Transfer (SET), however, doctors can now feel confident about transferring just one normal embryo. At RMA, we have established SET as the standard of care going forward. With SET, the risk of multiple births is drastically reduced.
West states that the "hardest thing about secondary fertility issues is that you want a sibling for your child." Fiona, who has a son of five and has been trying to conceive a second child for two years, says she can no longer look out of the window at her son playing in the garden. "It breaks my heart. He just looks so alone out there. All I want is a sibling for him but I don't think it's going to happen."

Impaired sperm production or function. Below-average sperm concentration, weak movement of sperm (poor mobility), or abnormalities in sperm size and shape can make it difficult for sperm to fertilize an egg. If semen abnormalities are found, your partner might need to see a specialist to determine if there are correctable problems or underlying health concerns.
When I think back to that time, I recall an almost constant sense of grief. Every 28th day represented another failure, another loss. All around me my friends were having their second and then third babies. My son looked at his classmates with their siblings wistfully, he wished with every birthday candle for a brother or sister and one day he asked, "Can you play tig on your own?"
4. Significant Hair Growth (or Hair Loss): Polycystic ovarian syndrome causes small cysts to form on the outside of the ovaries, and it also causes the body to produce an excess of male hormones. If you notice hair growing in unusual places like your face, arms, chest or back, this could be a warning sign. On the flip side, hair loss or thinning could be a sign of other infertility related conditions like thyroid issues, anemia or autoimmune disorders.
In some cases, laboratory mix-ups (misidentified gametes, transfer of wrong embryos) have occurred, leading to legal action against the IVF provider and complex paternity suits. An example is the case of a woman in California who received the embryo of another couple and was notified of this mistake after the birth of her son.[94] This has led to many authorities and individual clinics implementing procedures to minimise the risk of such mix-ups. The HFEA, for example, requires clinics to use a double witnessing system, the identity of specimens is checked by two people at each point at which specimens are transferred. Alternatively, technological solutions are gaining favour, to reduce the manpower cost of manual double witnessing, and to further reduce risks with uniquely numbered RFID tags which can be identified by readers connected to a computer. The computer tracks specimens throughout the process and alerts the embryologist if non-matching specimens are identified. Although the use of RFID tracking has expanded in the US,[95] it is still not widely adopted.[96]

Fertility has long been considered a “woman’s problem.” This is simply not true, and men are in fact, equally as infertile as women. Traditionally the metrics for male fertility have been mostly limited to sperm count, morphology, motility, and, occasionally, DNA fragmentation. For females, on the other hand, a vast array of tests are available. These include ultrasound, cervical position, basal body temperature, hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, cycle tracking and a diversity of hormonal tests.
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Risk of multiples. IUI with fertility medication carries a significant risk of multiple pregnancies, including higher-order multiples (triplets or more). A good clinic will carefully monitor your follicles to make sure that only a safe number are mature before the IUI, but they cannot entirely eliminate the risk. Recent advances in IVF (including blastocyst transfer) mean that most modern fertility clinics now transfer only one or two embryos per IVF cycle. As a result, the risk of multiple pregnancies for IVF patients is much lower than it used to be.


Laboratories have developed grading methods to judge ovocyte and embryo quality. In order to optimise pregnancy rates, there is significant evidence that a morphological scoring system is the best strategy for the selection of embryos.[72] Since 2009 where the first time-lapse microscopy system for IVF was approved for clinical use,[73] morphokinetic scoring systems has shown to improve to pregnancy rates further.[74] However, when all different types of time-lapse embryo imaging devices, with or without morphokinetic scoring systems, are compared against conventional embryo assessment for IVF, there is insufficient evidence of a difference in live-birth, pregnancy, stillbirth or miscarriage to choose between them.[75] Active efforts to develop a more accurate embryo selection analysis based on Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning are underway. Embryo Ranking Intelligent Classification Assistant (ERICA),[76] is a clear example. This Deep Learning software substitutes manual classifications with a ranking system based on an individual embryo's predicted genetic status in a non-invasive fashion.[77] Studies on this area are still pending and current feasibility studies support its potential.[78]
The common thing that happens once learning about the unexplained infertility diagnosis is shifting blame or incurring guilt. You may feel a sense of individual responsibility for the news, and be concerned about the effects that this will have on your relationship and your current partner. Perhaps you feel like you waited too long to start a family or have anxiety finding the right parenting partner that you associate now with your infertility. Remember, it’s no one’s fault.
IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology used for infertility treatment and gestational surrogacy. A fertilised egg may be implanted into a surrogate's uterus, and the resulting child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate. Some countries have banned or otherwise regulate the availability of IVF treatment, giving rise to fertility tourism. Restrictions on the availability of IVF include costs and age, in order for a woman to carry a healthy pregnancy to term. IVF is generally not used until less invasive or expensive options have failed or been determined unlikely to work.
Those fearful of conceiving with multiples should strongly consider IVF and only transferring one embryo at a time. In these circumstances, just 1% of pregnancies lead to twins, and triplets are even more rare. Alternatively, 8 - 30% of medicated IUI pregnancies lead to twins. Finally, the least preferable circumstance is do to IVF with multiple embryo transfer, where in women under 38 years of age, 30% of pregnancies culminate in a multiple birth.
Secondary infertility (SI) is defined by doctors as the inability to conceive or carry to term a second or subsequent child. You may not have heard of it but you probably soon will, because it's on the increase. A US study revealed that, in 1995, 1.8 million women suffered from secondary infertility; in 2006, it was 3.3 million. SI now accounts for six out of 10 infertility cases.
Very slight elements of risk are associated with any medical intervention but for IVF the most notable risk in the past has been multiple births. The impact of multiple births on birth weight, premature delivery, and post-natal complications is well known. This is largely due to the practice over the past 30 years of transferring two or more embryos during IVF. Thanks to PGT-A testing and Single Embryo Transfer (SET), however, doctors can now feel confident about transferring just one normal embryo. At RMA, we have established SET as the standard of care going forward. With SET, the risk of multiple births is drastically reduced.

IVF may be used to overcome female infertility when it is due to problems with the fallopian tubes, making in vivo fertilisation difficult. It can also assist in male infertility, in those cases where there is a defect in sperm quality; in such situations intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) may be used, where a sperm cell is injected directly into the egg cell. This is used when sperm has difficulty penetrating the egg. In these cases the partner's or a donor's sperm may be used. ICSI is also used when sperm numbers are very low. When indicated, the use of ICSI has been found to increase the success rates of IVF.
Ovarian hyperstimulation also includes suppression of spontaneous ovulation, for which two main methods are available: Using a (usually longer) GnRH agonist protocol or a (usually shorter) GnRH antagonist protocol.[60] In a standard long GnRH agonist protocol the day when hyperstimulation treatment is started and the expected day of later oocyte retrieval can be chosen to conform to personal choice, while in a GnRH antagonist protocol it must be adapted to the spontaneous onset of the previous menstruation. On the other hand, the GnRH antagonist protocol has a lower risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), which is a life-threatening complication.[60]
^ Siristatidis C, Sergentanis TN, Kanavidis P, Trivella M, Sotiraki M, Mavromatis I, Psaltopoulou T, Skalkidou A, Petridou ET (2012). "Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation for IVF: impact on ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancer—a systematic review and meta-analysis". Human Reproduction Update. 19 (2): 105–23. doi:10.1093/humupd/dms051. PMID 23255514.
Preimplantation genetic testing. Embryos are allowed to develop in the incubator until they reach a stage where a small sample can be removed and tested for specific genetic diseases or the correct number of chromosomes, typically after five to six days of development. Embryos that don't contain affected genes or chromosomes can be transferred to your uterus. While preimplantation genetic testing can reduce the likelihood that a parent will pass on a genetic problem, it can't eliminate the risk. Prenatal testing may still be recommended.

Wondering if it’s time to seek fertility help from a specialist? Your age can help clue you in to the answer. If you’re younger than 35, it’s perfectly normal for it to take six months to a year to conceive. If, after a year, you haven’t accomplished your conception goal, you’ll want to talk with your practitioner and/or get a referral to a fertility specialist. If you’re older than 35, experts recommend that you seek help from a fertility specialist after six months of regularly trying to conceive without birth control — and you may even want to go after three months. If you’re over 40, you’ll probably want to start off your quest for a second pregnancy with a fertility evaluation from your doctor. Ditto if your partner is over 40, since 35 to 40 percent of fertility problems can be traced back to the man, and a guy’s age affects the quality of his sperm.

Intercourse must take place frequently, particularly before and around the time of ovulation, and the couple must have been trying to conceive for at least one year (6 months if the woman is over 35 years old). Using these criteria, about 10-20% of all infertile couples have unexplained infertility. However, the percentage of couples classified as having unexplained infertility will depend upon the thoroughness of testing and the sophistication of medical technology. 

^ Siristatidis C, Sergentanis TN, Kanavidis P, Trivella M, Sotiraki M, Mavromatis I, Psaltopoulou T, Skalkidou A, Petridou ET (2012). "Controlled ovarian hyperstimulation for IVF: impact on ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancer—a systematic review and meta-analysis". Human Reproduction Update. 19 (2): 105–23. doi:10.1093/humupd/dms051. PMID 23255514.
Once the semen sample is ready, it'll be put through a special washing process, which separates the sperm from the other stuff that is found in semen. The embryologist will choose the “best-looking sperm," placing about 10,000 sperm in each culture dish with an oocyte. The culture dishes are kept in a special incubator, and after 12 to 24 hours, they are inspected for signs of fertilization.
IVF increasingly appears on NHS treatments blacklists.[160] In August 2017 five of the 208 CCGs had stopped funding IVF completely and others were considering doing so.[161] By October 2017 only 25 CCGs were delivering the three recommended NHS IVF cycles to eligible women under 40.[162] Policies could fall foul of discrimination laws if they treat same sex couples differently from heterosexual ones.[163] In July 2019 Jackie Doyle-Price said that women were registering with surgeries further away from their own home in order to get around CCG rationing policies.[164]
Having no period means ovulation isn’t taking place at all, so a pregnancy can’t happen because no eggs is making itself eligible to be fertilized. Similarly, having irregular periods makes achieving pregnancy difficult, because it’s hard to time intercourse properly -- if sperm and egg aren’t at the same place at the same time, there is no chance of pregnancy.
Many women spend much of their early adult lives trying not to get pregnant. But when you finally do want to start a family and it doesn’t happen right away, it can leave you feeling frustrated. Not to mention, trying to get pregnant month after month unsuccessfully can be emotionally taxing. You should know that you are not alone, and that unexplained infertility is exactly that– unexplained– so no finger pointing as to who is at fault!
Egg retrieval and sperm collection – Egg retrieval happens 35 hours after the trigger shot. It is done under light anesthesia and takes just 5-10 minutes. During retrieval, a tiny hollow needle is pierced through the vaginal wall towards an ovary. At this point, the fluid that contains the developed eggs is drained from the follicles and immediately taken to the IVF laboratory, where they will be fertilized and developed. Sperm is collected the same day as the procedure by ejaculation into a sterile specimen container, frozen ahead of time, via a donor, or through more advanced sperm retrieval procedures. Next, the sperm is washed, placed in a solution similar to the fallopian tubes, and used for fertilization.

^ Chavez-Badiola, Alejandro; Flores-Saiffe Farias, Adolfo; Mendizabal-Ruiz, Gerardo; Garcia-Sanchez, Rodolfo; Drakeley, Andrew J.; Garcia-Sandoval, Juan Paulo (10 March 2020). "Predicting pregnancy test results after embryo transfer by image feature extraction and analysis using machine learning". Scientific Reports. 10 (1): 4394. Bibcode:2020NatSR..10.4394C. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-61357-9. PMC 7064494. PMID 32157183.
If a man and woman 35 or younger have had unprotected sex for at least 12 months (or six months if older than 35) without getting pregnant, they should suspect secondary infertility. This especially applies to women older than 30 who have experienced pelvic inflammatory disease, painful periods, irregular menstrual cycles or miscarriages, and to men with low sperm counts.

The first successful birth of a child after IVF treatment, Louise Brown, occurred in 1978. Louise Brown was born as a result of natural cycle IVF where no stimulation was made. The procedure took place at Dr Kershaw's Cottage Hospital (now Dr Kershaw's Hospice) in Royton, Oldham, England. Robert G. Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2010, the physiologist who co-developed the treatment together with Patrick Steptoe and embryologist Jean Purdy; Steptoe and Purdy were not eligible for consideration as the Nobel Prize is not awarded posthumously.[1][2]


^ Baker VL, Luke B, Brown MB, Alvero R, Frattarelli JL, Usadi R, et al. (September 2010). "Multivariate analysis of factors affecting probability of pregnancy and live birth with in vitro fertilization: an analysis of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic Outcomes Reporting System". Fertility and Sterility. 94 (4): 1410–6. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.07.986. PMID 19740463.
Success varies with many factors. The age of the woman is the most important factor, when women are using their own eggs. Success rates decline as women age, specifically after the mid-30’s.  Part of this decline is due to a lower chance of getting pregnant from ART, and part is due to a higher risk of miscarriage with increasing age, especially over age 40.  
Additionally, couples may turn to assisted reproductive technology, the most common of which is in vitro fertilization (IVF). Other techniques may include special injections or using a donor's eggs or sperm. Complications can sometimes occur, the most common being bleeding or infection; ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, in which the ovaries become swollen and painful; and multiple pregnancies.
IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology used for infertility treatment and gestational surrogacy. A fertilised egg may be implanted into a surrogate's uterus, and the resulting child is genetically unrelated to the surrogate. Some countries have banned or otherwise regulate the availability of IVF treatment, giving rise to fertility tourism. Restrictions on the availability of IVF include costs and age, in order for a woman to carry a healthy pregnancy to term. IVF is generally not used until less invasive or expensive options have failed or been determined unlikely to work.
By 2017, many centers have adopted embryo cryopreservation as their primary IVF therapy, and perform few or no fresh embryo transfers. The two main reasons for this have been better endometrial receptivity when embryos are transferred in cycles without exposure to ovarian stimulation and also the ability to store the embryos while awaiting the results of pre-implantation genetic testing.
In egg donation and embryo donation, the resultant embryo after fertilisation is inserted in another woman than the one providing the eggs. These are resources for women with no eggs due to surgery, chemotherapy, or genetic causes; or with poor egg quality, previously unsuccessful IVF cycles or advanced maternal age. In the egg donor process, eggs are retrieved from a donor's ovaries, fertilised in the laboratory with the sperm from the recipient's partner, and the resulting healthy embryos are returned to the recipient's uterus.

When weighing the options, the pros and cons of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) will, of course, be explored fully in discussion with your physician. In general terms, you can expect IUI to be a simpler process, less invasive, and lower cost. Some fertility specialists recommend attempting one or more cycles of artificial insemination before moving to IVF but this does not apply to everyone. For example, for an older woman, to try artificial insemination first may take up valuable time and the recommendation could well be to move straight to IVF. But before you can compare the two treatments, you need to know what exactly you could expect from IVF.
Amongst these two patient populations (which we’ll refer to now as PCOS), IUI with clomid and letrozole generally shows no improvement versus when these drugs are taken without IUI. When IUI is coupled with gonadotropins, success rates reach 14 - 26% per cycle, which is higher than almost any other patient class, but still pales in comparison to IVF. It’s also worth noting that PCOS patients who are taking gonadotropins have a very high risk of multiples.
^ Baker VL, Luke B, Brown MB, Alvero R, Frattarelli JL, Usadi R, et al. (September 2010). "Multivariate analysis of factors affecting probability of pregnancy and live birth with in vitro fertilization: an analysis of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic Outcomes Reporting System". Fertility and Sterility. 94 (4): 1410–6. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.07.986. PMID 19740463. 
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