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  • Writer's pictureKarine Sabourin

Secondary Infertility: Why is it harder for me to get pregnant with my second kid?

We’re conditioned to associate having our periods with being able to get pregnant.


We’re also conditioned to understand our fertility decreases with age. But did you know your fertility also increases with age after you hit puberty until roughly 20 years old?


What if I told you after having a baby (or a miscarriage) your body can send you back to that “early reproductive” stage of your life’s reproductive continuum?



What is the reproductive continuum?


For most of us, the reproductive continuum pattern goes like this:


Cycles with no ovarian activity

  • No bleeding

  • No egg is released

  • Pregnancy is impossible


Anovulatory cycles with fluctuating estrogen levels

  • Periodic bleeding, just like regular menstruation

  • No egg is released

  • Pregnancy is impossible


Cycles with a luteinized unruptured follicle

  • Periodic bleeding, just like regular menstruation

  • Ovulation occurs, but egg isn’t released into fallopian tube

  • Pregnancy is impossible


Ovulatory cycles with a deficient luteal phase

  • Periodic bleeding, just like regular menstruation

  • Ovulation occurs

  • Period after ovulation isn’t long enough to support fertilized egg

  • Pregnancy is unlikely


Ovulatory cycles with an adequate luteal phase

  • Healthy menstruation occurs

  • Ovulation occurs

  • Period after ovulation is long enough to support fertilized egg

  • Pregnancy is possible


Once you hit this last stage of fertility between the ages of 20-35 years old, perimenopause and menopause are used to describe these same stages, but in reverse order, until you end up back at cycles with no ovarian activity, i.e. no more period.


How is my fertility affected by a pregnancy (including miscarriage)?


After having a baby (or a miscarriage), your fertility is sent back into the “early reproductive” stage.


We can define the Early Reproductive Stage as the cycles between “Cycle with no ovarian activity” and “Ovulatory cycles with an adequate luteal phase.” So, cycles in which you have a period, but pregnancy is still impossible or improbable.


How do I know if my fertility will be affected by pregnancy (including miscarriage)?


Unfortunately, there’s no way to know if you’ll be sent back into the Early Reproductive Stage and your ability to get pregnancy will be affected at all.


Some women get their periods back postpartum and immediately have cycles with an adequate luteal phase, i.e. can get pregnant.


Some women only get sent back to ovulatory cycles with a deficient luteal phase and some get sent back as far as anovulatory cycles with fluctuating estrogen levels. There’s no way to know in advance where you’ll be.


How long will my fertility be affected after pregnancy (including miscarriage)?


If you are sent back into any of the Early Productive Stage cycles, there’s also no telling how long you’ll be there for. It can be a few weeks, months or years.


How do I know if my secondary infertility is due to my stage in the reproductive continuum?


Since all these stages can look the same outwardly, i.e. you’re seeing a somewhat regular bleeding pattern, the only way to know whether or not your secondary infertility is due to your stage in the reproductive continuum, at home, for free, is to chart your cycle.


The two main pieces of information you’ll be able to identify are whether or not you ovulated and whether or not your luteal phase is an adequate length.


Reminder that ovulation predictor kits (OPKs) can tell you when your body is about to *try* to ovulate, not whether or not your body actually ovulated. That’s a very important distinction in this phase of life.


Why is it important to know whether my secondary infertility is due to my stage in the reproductive continuum?


There are two reasons why it’s important to know whether your secondary infertility is due to your stage in the reproductive continuum.


The first is so you can manage your expectations. When you know you’re in a stage cycle that isn’t conducive to pregnancy, you can manage your expectations appropriately. Of course, it will still be disappointing if you get a negative pregnancy test, but there’s a difference between thinking pregnancy is 100% possible vs. knowing the odds this cycle aren’t very good.


The second is targeted intervention. If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, there’s a wealth of information and resources out there to help you “improve your fertility.” However, this term is vague and hard to measure whether or not it’s working.


If you, for example, know your luteal phase was the problem, you could focus your efforts on improving your progesterone production, which is much more specific than improving your fertility in general.


Get Started Now!

It’s never too early and it’s never too late to learn more about your fertility.


At Ovary Mindful, we have an online course called “The Fertility Roadmap: Navigating the First 12 Months of Trying to Conceive” and our goal is to help you reduce heartbreak by maximizing your fertility, identifying subfertility and advocating confidently.


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