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Nicole the Fertile Chick: Secondary Infertility



Mercy* has been married for almost nine years. She has an 8-year-old son who was literally conceived on her wedding night. However, she has struggled with conceiving another child ever since. She got married a virgin, has never had an infection, and doesn’t understand why she just cannot seem to have another baby.

Uloma* got pregnant for a man she had been dating very briefly. She was still in University at the time, but her boyfriend, who was in his late 20s and ready to settle down, was very excited about the pregnancy, and immediately made her move in with him. The plan was to finalise marriage proceedings after the baby. On one too many occasions, she was at the receiving end of a few slaps and punches, but she chose to ignore them. When she had the baby, despite the fact they were not formally wed, her Mother defied all protocol and moved in with the couple for the required omugwo. Her baby wasn’t even 4 weeks old when her fiancé violently attacked herself and her Mother. They fled his house without even packing all their belongings. Fast-forward 7 years, she got married to a wonderful man and they proceeded to build a life together. They have been married for 6 years and have never conceived once.

Angela* got pregnant for her long time boyfriend. Even though they both had good jobs, neither of them felt the timing was quite right, so they opted for a termination. The plan was to get married in the next year or two, and then they could try for babies properly. Within months of the abortion, her boyfriend cheated on her and the relationship was over. A few years later, she married her soul mate. They have been trying for a baby for almost 10 years.
These women all have one thing in common. Secondary infertility!

Secondary infertility is defined as the inability to conceive, or carry to term, a child, after having already done so in the past. Of the women I have had the opportunity to interact with, those who fall under this category are of an alarmingly growing number. And their frustration is understandable. It is one thing if you have never conceived before, and are tackling whatever issues are responsible for your infertility. But to have already conceived a child, usually without even having to try for long, and then to be suddenly hit with infertility has to be highly exasperating.

So, what exactly causes secondary infertility? What causes a presumably fertile woman to struggle with conception the second (or third, or even fourth) time around? There are many factors that contribute to this, but one of the more common factors is tubal damage, usually arising from infections. Sometimes these infections could have been contracted from previous childbirth, STDs, or even terminations. Another common factor is adhesion / scar tissue formation, arising from abdominal surgery, the most common being caesarian sections, myomectomies, appendix removal, etc. PCOS is another common factor, which could have been dormant or mild earlier in life, but is aggravated with time, leading to later infertility. Lifestyle factors, like poor diet, smoking, excessing drinking, etc., could contribute to hormonal imbalance that will, in turn, impair ovulatory function. These lifestyles lapses also affect male fertility, sometimes leading to a drastic drop in sperm count, thus contributing to the couple’s secondary infertility. So many factors could be blamed, and they can, in turn, be addressed and handled accordingly. But identifying the “cause” is one of the easier things to handle. With secondary infertility, there are other more delicate matters to address.

Society is less supportive of couples facing secondary infertility. Once you have a child already, the emotional and psychological impact of secondary infertility is downplayed by practically everyone…sometimes even your doctor. Family members instead choose to nag and scold the couple for not giving their children any siblings. There is hardly any shoulder to cry on, as everyone around doesn’t understand why the couple is so distraught when, after all, they already have a child. Some might even go as far as criticizing them for being greedy and ungrateful. Sometimes, it could even be the spouse downplaying this infertility, and choosing not to work as a team to seek any medical intervention. All of these almost always lead to feelings of isolation, despair, inadequacy, regret and frustration, by one, or both parties. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication not to allow these feelings affect the marriage, or even the well being of the child they already have.

For the 2nd class of secondary infertility I highlighted, it gets even more complex. It involves when one party has already had a child outside of that relationship, but is unable to conceive with their current spouse. Of the couples I know in this situation, blame, resentment, and suspicion always rear their ugly heads at some point. The party that has had the child previously, almost always throws this wonderful fact in the face of the seemingly infertile party. In every argument a friend of mine had with her ex-husband, he was always quick to remind her of the kids he had fathered from his previous relationships. He refused to follow her to see a fertility doctor, and basically left her to figure it out on her own. Their marriage broke down shortly after. On the flip side, I have a relative who had a son when she was a teenager. When her marriage had produced no child after many years, her husband would always accuse her of being selfish, because she had a child after all! No matter how hard she tried, her efforts were never good enough, and she was constantly accused of not working hard to seek a solution to their plight, since she already had a child. That marriage also broke down. This category is an extremely delicate one to handle, and couples in this situation need even more emotional and psychological support.

However, the 3rd category is the least talked about, but possibly the most common, one. This is when one, or both parties, have had, or been involved with, (a) termination(s) in the past, but is/are now unable to conceive. For me, this is the most delicate category, as a result of the enormous guilt carried by the parties involved. Some of them believe the abortion(s) destroyed their bodies, some believe they are being punished by God. And the longer it takes for them to conceive, the heavier the guilt and self-reproach. It is almost always a lose-lose situation for couples in this situation, as hiding this information usually leads to more guilt, and disclosure could also come with a heavy price tag.

Whatever category you might find yourself, the best thing to do is not to look back, but instead map out a way forward. You cannot go back in time to prevent the infection, or opt out of the surgical procedure, change your mind about the termination, or whatever it is you believe is responsible for your condition. What you can do is discuss with your doctor about how to move forward, and what options are open to you. If yours is a case of hormonal imbalance or diminished sperm count and/or quality, you can adopt some lifestyle changes to try to counter it, and seek medical intervention if this fails. It is important for you and your spouse to be there for each other, and accept that not everybody will understand your longing for a child, even if you do have one already. By being there for each other, it means not placing any lofty expectations on the other, and not dishing out blame. If you are working as a team, it shouldn’t matter who has which child where, or who did what when. You must always remember the cardinal rule that united you stand, and divided you fall.

Have a wonderful week, folks! Good luck!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang

Nicole is a woman in her late 30s, with a passion for all things fertility related. She suffered infertility for the first 3 years of her marriage, and found it extremely isolating. After she had her kids, she started The Fertile Chick ( to create a community and happy-place for all women, in various stages of the fertility journey.


  1. thathausachic

    April 27, 2015 at 10:55 am

    Wow, never would have known all these …….thanks as you never fail to educate one on your write ups.

  2. A

    April 27, 2015 at 11:02 am

    I have met quite a number of women who experienced secondary infertility, 1. is my family friend, good news is that she had a second child ten years after the first without any help, then a neighbour whose first child (she had when she was much younger) was abt 21years old when she had her second. I think she had to go the way of IVF for the second when she was in her 40s, i actually know that most times secondary infertility cannot be explained……

    • nicolefertilechick

      April 27, 2015 at 10:30 pm

      Thanks A. You’re correct! A lot of times, it can not be explained. I’m glad your family friend and neighbour got their happy endings. It’s really never too late!

  3. Fanya

    April 27, 2015 at 11:57 am

    I had an issue with secondary infertility. I just couldn’t understand why I was not able to get pregnant after having my daughter so early in my marriage. I even had phantom pregnancies where your mind deceives your body into believing you are pregnant. Late periods, full breasts and all. In the end, pregnant tests come out negative and the period comes 2 weeks late. I was so depressed and people didn’t understand and the pressure from friends and family was insane. They felt I was still trying to “keep my shape” or “still in honeymoon stage”. Thank God I finally gave birth to my son. I did like 5 pregnancy tests before I was convinced I was actually pregnant for him. There’s about 4 years between my daughter and my son. But hey! Who’s counting???? I have the perfect pair.

    • nicolefertilechick

      April 27, 2015 at 10:31 pm

      Thanks Fanya! Those phantom pregnancies really are the worst! Congrats on the birth of your son! You really do have the perfect pair 🙂

  4. #TheWordWorks!

    April 27, 2015 at 12:07 pm

    This was exactly my story. Got married, conceived almost immediately and just figured that getting pregnant must be as easy as 1,2,3. Well, not so…it’s only by Grace. For some 30months after childbirth, my period ceased. Initially I felt it wasn’t unusual as I was breastfeeding, but even after I weaned my baby, the problem persisted. Sincerely I didn’t bother much at first as hubby and I weren’t ready for another baby just yet but after a while we started getting concerned especially due to the fact that my period hadn’t shown up in a while (years actually). Of course everyone thought we were just taking our time, not knowing we were actually “managing” something. Tests showed that my hormones weren’t balanced , I had an incredibly low level of progesterone which resulted in anovulation and was diagnosed as secondary infertility. Got drugs, injections and treatments which left me feeling bloated yet nothing happened. After a while I just decided to wait it out and take a break from all my agitation. I then waited in the place of prayer , reminding God of His word. 30months after, a random weekend, my period returned. I didn’t want to raise my own hopes so I safely assumed it was possibly some shedding of blood, and not necessarily a period, especially as I had taken a break from all treatments. That phase went on for another 6months and to my delight, I conceived again. 4years, 3months after our first child, God blessed us with another.
    If you are going through a similar situation, get informed about the cause, seek medical help but most importantly, don’t neglect the place of prayer. There is a God factor that ensures the success of all our efforts and if God made you, He is able to repair you, no matter how bad the diagnosis.

    • nicolefertilechick

      April 27, 2015 at 10:34 pm

      Thanks so much #TheWordWorks! I couldn’t agree with you more. With all the medicine there is, God is truly the one who makes straight every crooked path! It sounds like you had a very harrowing experience with the loss of your periods for so long. Thank God everything worked out in the end! Congrats!!!

  5. Blessed

    April 27, 2015 at 3:38 pm

    Excellent article as always, well done Nicole.

    There is a very high incidence pf secondary infertility especially with women that had very challenging childbirths, i mean, severe blood loss either during or after natural child birth. it can also occur in complicated CS.

    its called sheehan syndrome. (you can read it up)
    if you have had a history of hypovolemic shock or trauma leading to almost death experience and poor lactation after birth of your child, please see a doctor.

    i’ll give an example. case history of a close relative

    lets call her : blessed

    Blessed got pregnant for the first time, every thing was alright until it was time for delivery. she didnt dilate properly and CS was recommended. everything went absolutely fine.

    Blessed got pregnant again. this time she asked the doctors if vaginal delivery was still possible, they said yes. so the pushing began, she was getting tired, baby was almost in distress but the doctors told her she could do it and on the pushing went, until she collapsed. emergency CS was indicated (obviously) and they hurried in.

    it took hours to get her back, thank God. they tried with the baby but he was gone. (baby came out severely blue), blessed was still in the critical state. she was in the ICU for a while and the doctors said it was just GOD!

    without a baby, blessed returned home. she told us about seeing a bright light and walking up somewhere. she met someone who told her to start going back but she refused and he forced her back. she woke up hearing her name being shouted by the nurses.

    let not even get to other details

    but you get the scenario:
    now to the koko:

    its been approximately- 6 years and no pregnancy and she is trying.
    she complains of infrequent menses, when present, in small quantities and sometimes absent for months
    spoke with her recently and she said doctor talked about hormonal imbalance.
    blessed has done lots of tests and pelvic examinations. ovaries are fine, uterus is balling well.

    i recommended a CT scan or MRI of the head.
    when there is injury to the pituitary gland located in the brain, it causes it to perform poorly or below par and reduces the hormones it produces which in turn will affect reproductive processes.

    thats the simple summary. i know this is long but i understand people are able to relate to life experiences. remember, science cant do all, i wish it could but prayer can.

    you can visit the link below, you might be interested

    GOD bless you!!!

    • nicolefertilechick

      April 27, 2015 at 10:38 pm

      Thank you, Blessed. I had chills reading about your relative. Thank God she made it through that experience. I agree that, in addition to a thorough hormone profile test, she should the MRI, and indeed any other test to get to the bottom of the issue. I pray she soon gets her happy ending!

  6. Nike

    April 27, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    I had secondary infertility. It was like film trick lol
    I got pregnant 2 months into my marriage 6 years ago. Then i went on iud because i wanted to do child spacing. Took out iud 3 years ago and no pregnancy AT ALL. I think my iud plus my weight gain and its subsequent hormonal changes messed me up.
    Last year, i started dieting and exercising, lost about 50 pounds, started having normal periods again but still couldn’t get pregnant until ii went to the doctor and was given Clomid.
    Thank God i only took it once before i got pregnant and my little girl will be born next month by Gods grace.

    Secondary Infertility can be a huge pain

    • nicolefertilechick

      April 27, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      IUDs, and birth control in general, can really throw our bodies out of whack! Also, there is a direct correlation between fertility and weight. I’m so glad it worked out for you in the end!

  7. blessings

    April 27, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    I had secondary infertility also. I got pregnant with my first without even trying. When my first was 1 we started trying again. We ended up with 3 miscarriages in 9 months! Nothing had changed between when I had my first, and the miscarriages – I wasn’t on the pill, didn’t have any infections or stds. The doctors said it was just “bad luck”.

    • nicolefertilechick

      April 27, 2015 at 10:44 pm

      3 miscarriages in 9 months must have been extremely devastating. But really, some doctors have no tact whatsoever. If you’re still trying, good luck hun! You might want to see another Ob/Gyn and/or run some more in-depth tests.

  8. Ms. Bee

    April 27, 2015 at 6:48 pm


    Thanks again for another wonderful write up!

    At a recent church service, women wanting fruit of the womb were called out; To my surprise, there were lots of women who were in their mid/late 40’s who came out because of secondary infertility because I know most of these women have a child/ children.

    I waited 5 years to conceive my first, so obviously I was praying that the second pregnancy won’t be long. And to God be the glory, I got pregnant 2 years after my son.

    I think it’s crucial to be sensitive in asking or making comments about when someone is going to have another child because you may not know what pain or struggle they maybe going thru.

    • nicolefertilechick

      April 27, 2015 at 10:46 pm

      Thanks Ms. Bee! I’m glad you didn’t have to wait as long for your 2nd. People absolutely need to be much more sensitive as nobody knows what other couples are going through.

    • Osa

      May 20, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Best comment – Sensitive in asking or making comments about when someone is going to have another child!!! My 1st will be 5 in a few days so this is the season of this talk. i have heard all sorts from “why don’t you hurry with number 2 then work on your body” when i’m exercising to “ah you are doing like your mother” My mom had 4 years gap between each child. This morning someone said your son needs a sister…..These days i shut them up by saying “Join us in praying while we wait on the Lord”. It is so frustrating, i got pregnant the month i planned to after marriage, had a copper iud, took it out and got pregnant again 2 months afterwards however since that miscarriage things have gone downhill.
      However, i stand on the Lord’s promises….it can be quite depressing sometimes, i cried so hard when i saw my period last week.
      Nicole, what are your tips for going through IVF? i am naturally a worrier so i don’t know how i will keep calm and unfortunately, my husband works rotation so would most likely be away so i’ll be alone.

  9. mariamah

    May 26, 2015 at 5:17 pm

    i have a daughter who is 6yrs old now, and i have been trying to concieve again, series of phantom pregnancies down the line , n i am still waiting, gone for all kind of tests and i have been told i am okay, It is frustrating, considering going for IVF by the end of the year, Nicole, like the last peson asked, what are your tips for going through IVF, and i am also a natural worrier.

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