Infertility Question: What is the difference between primary infertility and secondary infertility?

August 18, 2008

Primary & Secondary Infertility

Primary infertility is the term used when a woman has never had a successful birth of a child and secondary infertility is the inability to conceive after having already had a successful birth. Both types of infertility are common amongst couples who are infertile and the causes and treatments are similar for both.

Female Issues

Female infertility may be caused by any number of situations, including abnormalities of the uterus, such as a septate uterus. A septate uterus is a condition wherein the wall of the uterus (septum) is divided either partially or fully, into two cavities. The treatment for a septate uterus is surgical since hormones do not seem to affect the situation. The diagnosis is made using a special uterine x-rate which will expose abnormalities like scarring, polyps, fibroids or a uterus which is abnormally shaped.

A metroplasty is performed - a procedure to remove the septum or division in the uterus. The surgery can be done vaginally, using a telescope-like device which is placed into the vagina and then into the uterus, or it can be done by laparotomy, an incision in the abdomen. About 80 percent of women who have surgery to remove septum and reshape the uterus have later successfully become pregnant and carried their baby to term.

Male Infertility

Male infertility can be affected by a wide variety of disorders and external influences as well. A qualified medical professional would have to do tests to determine exactly what the problem is - whether it is environmental, physical or emotional.

There are two primary reasons cited for male infertility, one of which is the vasectomy and the other varicocele. Nearly 56 percent of men seeking to conceive with their partners in study done in 2001 had had a vasectomy and were seeking to reverse the procedure. In the same study, 14 percent were infertile due to varicocele - the swelling of the veins in the spermatic cord of the scrotum for which surgical correction is necessary. Genetics, age, lifestyle, stress, overheating and chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure all affect the production of sperm for a man.

Sometimes It Can Be Easily Fixed

In some cases, secondary infertility may be something which can be medically addressed, such as a blockage in the fallopian tubes. The impact of secondary infertility can be every bit as devastating as primary infertility, and in some cases even more so if it is unexplained. The feelings of guilt and confusion are often overwhelming and it is important for couples who have had a successful pregnancy and birth to seek whatever help they need to be able to understand and explore possibilities of conception.

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