Amy Schumer shone a light on secondary infertility. What causes it?

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Dr Raewyn Teirney, an IVF specialist, obstetrician and gynaecologist, says a couple is considered to be experiencing secondary infertility if they can’t conceive their second or third child after 12 months or more. That falls to six months for couples over 35.

Age is often a major factor for those struggling, says Dr Teirney. “Many women are waiting longer to have even their first child these days, so by the time they try for baby number two, they are experiencing a rapid decline in both their egg numbers and egg quality.”

Alison Deboo, husband Matthew and their children Ottilie, 6, and Zachary, 10.

Alison Deboo, husband Matthew and their children Ottilie, 6, and Zachary, 10. Credit:Edwina Pickles

Other issues, such as ovulation disorders, hormone imbalances or polycystic ovary syndrome, can also make it difficult.

Dr Alex Polyakov, a senior fertility specialist and lecturer at the University of Melbourne, says weight gain can have a “dramatic impact” on the chances of conception.

There could also be complications from the first delivery. “For example, it’s well known that people who have a caesarean section, especially an emergency C-section, may potentially have issues conceiving for a second time.”

He says those experiencing difficulties should consult a fertility specialist who can help find solutions to their specific challenges.

Dr Teirney says generally, couples can increase their chances of a baby by eating a healthy diet, exercising more, reducing alcohol intake, getting plenty of sleep and practising relaxation techniques. It’s also vital that couples track a woman’s cycle, he says.

“Quite often when people relax and follow the right health and lifestyle advice, they can conceive naturally,” Dr Teirney says.

It took Sydney’s Alison Deboo, and her husband Matthew, about nine months to conceive their first child Zach, now 10, naturally. But on their second try two years later, it was far tougher.

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After undergoing a variety of tests, doctors discovered a problem with Deboo’s fallopian tubes.

“We got to a point where we were told our chances of conceiving were naturally less than two per cent and our chances on IVF were less than 20,” she says.

Her heart dropped.

After considering their options for a couple of months, they signed on to begin IVF, and in a more relaxed mood, did what married couples do – this time purely for fun.

“Within five days … I thought ‘oh my god I’m pregnant’,” says Deboo. “My husband just kept saying to me ‘you’re crazy, you’re crazy, our chances are less than two per cent’.”

A few weeks later, just one day before her IVF was due to start, Deboo was confirmed pregnant.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” says Deboo, whose daughter Ottilie is now six. “When you’re told less than two per cent, you really don’t think you are going to be the person that does fall into that category.”

She hopes others can experience similar good fortune. “You never know because that miracle baby you least expect can surprise you.”

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