‘Secondary Infertility’ Preventing Millions Of Women From Giving Birth Again

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A pregnant woman receives an ultrasound exam. (CBS)

A pregnant woman receives an ultrasound exam. (CBS)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) – An affliction that affects millions of women in the U.S. is preventing them from getting pregnant – or keeping them from successfully carry a baby to term – despite having already given birth at least once.

It’s called “secondary infertility” and doctors are seeing more cases cropping up in otherwise healthy women.

No question Amy Wruble loves being Viv’s mother. “Being a mom is everything is dreamed of – and more. And we were able to have this beautiful healthy child so I figured certainly we should be able to have another one and yet it’s been much tougher this time,” explained Wruble.

“For the poor couples that have secondary infertility, it’s a surprise, it’s a bad surprise it’s an unexpected surprise and that makes it that much more difficult,” said Dr. Carl Herbert, a specialist at the Pacific Fertility Center of San Francisco.

He said the major factor in otherwise healthy women is age. “Her eggs have changed. A woman is born with all her eggs and those eggs gradually age over time and as she gets into her late 30s, early 40s suddenly those eggs don’t work as well as they used to,” said Herbert.

Women waiting to start families is also trend. But there’s a dramatic decline in conception rates, especially after age 35.

As for men, even older men, the problem is not with fertility. “Male sperm counts don’t drop dramatically.” said Herbert, “they may go down but they do not drop dramatically in their late 30s, early 40s, even into their early 50s.”

On a rare occasion, complications from a previous surgery including C-sections may impact fertility.

Extreme lifestyle habits such as drinking too much alcohol, and obesity can also play a role. But too much exercising can also harm a woman’s ability to have a child.

Herbert provided one example: a woman who used to run three times a week, had her first child, and gained a little weight. She wants to get the weight off and goes overboard.  “Now it’s a five-, six-day-a-week marathon kind of running and they’ve lost a lot of weight and that can certainly have an impact on their ability to get pregnant,” he said.

As for Wruble, the 43-year-old is still trying the old fashioned way. But it’s hard for her to see other families who are in her circle of friends have more children.

The emotional toll is deep. “You know I’m deep down inside jealous and frustrated,” said Wruble. “Why not me? Why is it so easy for them, so hard for me?”

Wruble has taken to writing a blog and has talked about her secondary infertility in hopes of helping others.

Fertility specialists say if you are a couple who have had one year of unprotected, well-timed sex or if the woman has suffered multiple miscarriages, you should visit an infertility specialist. If you plan to wait to have children, you may also want to consult with a specialist and plan for the future.

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