Conceiving a second time isn’t always straightforward. Here’s why it might be proving tricky, plus how best to boost your chances
Making the decision to try for another child is an exciting step for your family. So it can come as a shock if you have trouble conceiving, especially if you became pregnant pretty easily first time around.
Find out what could be causing any fertility issues, and the steps you can take to boost your chances.
What is secondary infertility?
Around one in seven couples have difficulty conceiving,1 and it’s thought that 5% of those are struggling with secondary infertility2 – an inability to become pregnant after one or more previous pregnancies.
There are many reasons why it might be trickier to conceive again, including:
- complications from a previous pregnancy or C-section
- undiagnosed conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis or fibroids
- being a bit older – on average, women’s fertility starts to decline from the mid-30s, and between 40-45 for men3
And, let’s face it, being a parent comes with its own stresses; it can be difficult to find the time, let alone the energy for sex!
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What can you do about secondary infertility?
The NHS advises seeing your doctor if you haven’t conceived after a year of trying and are aged 35 or younger, or sooner if you’re 36 or over.4
You may be referred for tests to see if you’re ovulating and to check for any underlying conditions. Your partner can also be tested for low sperm count or poor sperm quality.
Improve your chances of conceiving
It’s thought that making positive lifestyle changes may help improve your fertility. So what can you do?
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Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or underweight can affect your chances of conceiving. Women whose body mass index (BMI) is more than 30 or under 19 may have problems getting pregnant. And if your partner’s BMI is more than 30, his fertility is likely to be lower than normal.5
Eat a healthy, balanced diet
To give your body the best chance to get pregnant, a good diet is essential. Make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy starches like brown rice and pasta, dairy or dairy alternatives, beans and pulses, and healthy sources of protein.
A 2018 published in American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that eating too many simple carbohydrates – like white bread and biscuits – caused problems with ovulation, reducing your chances of getting pregnant. Consuming too many trans fats (found in many processed fats) could also lead to issues with ovulatory infertility.7
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Keep an eye on your cholesterol
US researchers discovered that high cholesterol levels reduced couples’ chances of getting pregnant.8 Your GP can check your cholesterol with a simple blood test.
To reduce cholesterol, cut back on fatty foods – particularly saturated fat and trans fats – go for healthy fats, like olive oil, and work more activity into your day.9
Ditch any unhealthy habits
Smoking and alcohol can both affect fertility. The Chief Medical Officers for the UK recommend not drinking alcohol at all if you’re planning a pregnancy, and your partner should have no more than 14 units of alcohol a week spread over three or more days.
Smoking has also been found to reduce fertility in women and has been linked to poorer quality sperm too.10
A 2014 study by the Ohio State University concluded that stress can increase the risk of infertility.11 Take some time out every day, whether that’s a 10-minute meditation or a run in the park. And enjoy spending time with your partner too – getting pregnant isn’t the only fun thing you can do together.
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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. NHS Choices. Infertility. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/
2. Fertility Network UK. Secondary Infertility. Available from: http://fertilitynetworkuk.org/for-those-trying-to-become-parents/information/medical-conditions/secondary-infertility/
3. British Fertility Society. At what age does fertility begin to decrease? Available from: https://britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/fei/at-what-age-does-fertility-begin-to-decrease/
4. As Source 1
5. NHS Choices. How can I increase my chances of getting pregnant? Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/pregnancy/how-can-i-increase-my-chances-of-getting-pregnant/
6. NHS Choices. Eat Well. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/
7. Dr Jorge E. Chavarro. How diet affects fertility. Available from: https://www.newsweek.com/how-diet-affects-fertility-94591
8. National Institutes of Health. NIH study links high cholesterol levels to lower fertility. Available from: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/nih-study-links-high-cholesterol-levels-lower-fertility
9. British Heart Foundation. High Cholesterol. Available from: https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/risk-factors/high-cholesterol?gclid=CjwKCAjwhevaBRApEiwA7aT538O3kHJvuA7Pk1hD6tmTW7j1IKeTqAD-XywOTVl_ZS_izaXK24unFhoCUMgQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
10. As Source 5
11. Lynch CD, et al. Preconception stress increases the risk of infertility: results from a couple-based prospective cohort study – the LIFE study. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deu032