In the US, up to 20% of infertile couples have unexplained infertility. In these cases abnormalities are likely to be present but not detected by current methods. Possible problems could be that the egg is not released at the optimum time for fertilization, that it may not enter the fallopian tube, sperm may not be able to reach the egg, fertilization may fail to occur, transport of the zygote may be disturbed, or implantation fails. It is increasingly recognized that egg quality is of critical importance and women of advanced maternal age have eggs of reduced capacity for normal and successful fertilization. Also, polymorphisms in folate pathway genes could be one reason for fertility complications in some women with unexplained infertility. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that epigenetic modifications in sperm may be partially responsible.
Anger, sadness, and anxiety are common among parents struggling to expand their family. "Having a child already doesn't make going through infertility any easier," says Alice D. Domar, Ph.D., executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, in Waltham, Massachusetts, and author of Conquering Infertility. Meeting with a mental-health professional or seeking out blogs and online groups for secondary infertility can help. The website of the National Infertility Association, resolve.org, is a good place to start.
If both partners are young and healthy and have been trying to conceive for one year without success, a visit to a physician or women's health nurse practitioner (WHNP) could help to highlight potential medical problems earlier rather than later. The doctor or WHNP may also be able to suggest lifestyle changes to increase the chances of conceiving.
ART techniques generally start with stimulating the ovaries to increase egg production. After stimulation, the physician surgically extracts one or more eggs from the ovary, and unites them with sperm in a laboratory setting, with the intent of producing one or more embryos. Fertilization takes place outside the body, and the fertilized egg is reinserted into the woman's reproductive tract, in a procedure called embryo transfer.
Sometimes problems getting pregnant for a second or subsequent time are related to a complication that occurred in a prior pregnancy or prior to delivery (damage to the uterus, for instance). But most often, secondary infertility is caused by the same factors that would cause primary infertility — issues like advanced age, obesity, ovulation problems and so on.