Trying to become parents can be a long and difficult journey, particularly when it’s due to struggles with types of infertility. If you’re experiencing this in your life, know that you are not alone.
In fact, 12% of women aged 15-44 have experienced infertility or used infertility services in the United States, which equals to about 7.3 million people.
But, we know that infertility can still be a difficult road for many couple to face. That’s why it’s important to know that there is hope, that by one way or another, you can become the parent you’ve always dreamed of being.
We’ll walk you through the different types of infertility and what other options may be available to you to help you make your dreams of having a family come true.
If you have any other questions about the types of infertility in females, or types of male infertility, you can also contact a professional to learn what you can do next.
Primary Infertility vs Secondary Infertility [What Are They?]
When defining infertility, there are two types of infertility to keep in mind: primary infertility and secondary infertility. While both cases result in a couple struggling to conceive, there are differences.
The first type of infertility – primary infertility – refers to a person or couple who are unable to have a first child. The typical time frame for this type of infertility is 12 or more months for the couple to have no success in conceiving. For those over the age of 35, that window drops to 6 or more months of trying.
Couples with one or more children can still experience different types of infertility. Secondary infertility refers to a couple who is unable to conceive after having one or more full-time pregnancy. To classify as secondary infertility, the previous birth must have occurred without help from fertility medications or treatments.
Secondary infertility is just as common as primary infertility. In fact, infertility affects 1 in 8 couples trying to conceive, or about 12.5%.
What Causes Primary and Secondary Infertility?
Overall, the risks and causes of these forms of infertility are fairly similar. Infertility can affect one or both partners.
For male infertility, some of the common causes include:
- Abnormal sperm production or function due to genetic defects, health problems, or infections. Varicocele can also affect the quality of sperm.
- Problems with the delivery of sperm due to sexual problems, certain genetic diseases, structural problems, or damage or injury to the reproductive organs.
- Overexposure to certain environmental factors, such as pesticides and other chemicals and radiation. Cigarette smoking, alcohol, drugs, and certain medications for health issues can also affect fertility. Frequent exposure to heat can raise body temperature and may affect sperm production.
- Damage related to cancer and its treatment, including radiation or chemotherapy, can impair sperm production, sometimes severely.
Causes of female infertility may include:
- Ovulation disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can affect the release of eggs from the ovaries. Hyperprolactinemia, which is the hormone that stimulates breast milk production, may also interfere with ovulation. Too much or too little of the thyroid hormone can affect the menstrual cycle or cause infertility.
- Uterine or cervical abnormalities, including abnormalities with the cervix, polyps in the uterus, or the shape of the uterus, may cause infertility by blocking the fallopian tubes or stopping a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
- Endometriosis, which occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside of the uterus, may affect the function of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes.
- Primary ovarian insufficiency, or early menopause, is when the ovaries stop working and menstruation ends before age 40.
- Pelvic adhesions, which are bands of scar tissue that bind organs that can form after pelvic infection, appendicitis, endometriosis, or abdominal or pelvic surgery.
- Certain cancers – particularly reproductive cancers – often impair female fertility. Both radiation and chemotherapy may affect infertility.
One of the biggest differences between these two types of infertility is what might have caused a change in fertility for couples struggling with secondary infertility. These couples may have experienced life changes that make conceiving difficult a second or third time. Some life changes could be:
- Weight gain
- Smoking or alcohol consumption
- And more
Secondary infertility can also develop as a result of complications during a previous pregnancy. For example, a C-section could cause internal scars, which could impact reproductive organs. So, while primary infertility can sometimes be unexplained, secondary infertility can be caused by a variety of factors.
Are There Other Options for Starting (or Growing) a Family?
Although learning to cope and work through different types of infertility may take time, there are options for you. Infertility issues and treatments can feel like they’re taking up all your time and energy, but it’s so important to continue doing things you enjoy.
If IVF or IUI are not options for you but you still want to build your family, surrogacy could be the right option for you. Although surrogacy will not allow you the pregnancy experience you may have wanted, it can still provide you with the parenthood experience you’ve dreamed about.
There are many who struggle with giving up the experience of pregnancy and don’t feel ready to move from infertility to surrogacy, and that’s OK. Infertility can be an emotional struggle for couples, but one of the best ways to determine if surrogacy after infertility is right for you is by talking to a surrogacy professional.
By talking with a surrogacy professional, they can give you a better idea of what to expect from the surrogacy process and whether you meet the requirements for intended parents pursuing surrogacy. Ultimately, the decision to pursue surrogacy after different types of infertility will be up to you and your partner.