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What is infertility?

Infertility is when a couple can't get pregnant despite having regular unprotected sex.

Please note: Some advice, such as visiting a GP face-to-face, may not be relevant while COVID-19 social distancing measures are in place

Around 1 in 7 couples are thought to have difficulties conceiving, but it can be a confusing and upsetting time when things don't go to plan.

How is it diagnosed?

A couple is only usually diagnosed if they have not managed to conceive after a year of trying.

There are two types of infertility:

  • primary infertility – when you have never conceived a baby but are struggling to
  • secondary fertility – when you have been pregnant before but are struggling to get pregnant again.

What causes infertility?

There are many things that can cause infertility, but common reasons include:

  • blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
  • endometriosis
  • lack of regular ovulation, which can be linked to issues such as PCOS
  • fibroids
  • a problem with the man's semen.

Sadly, for a quarter of couples, their infertility cannot be explained.

When should I see a GP?

It's a good idea to see a GP if you have not got pregnant within a year of trying, especially if you are over 36.

They will ask you questions about your sexual and medical history, such as whether you have previously given birth or had a miscarriage.

They may also weigh you, and may ask if they can look at your tummy and vagina. They may also refer you for further tests.

What treatments are available?

Medicines, surgical procedures and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) are the main types of fertility treatment.

If you have a problem with ovulation, the doctor may recommend a drug such as clomifene or gonadotrophins which can encourage the monthly release of an egg.

If you have damaged fallopian tubes or endometriosis, you may need surgery.

IVF would involve removing an egg from your ovaries, fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory then returning this egg - an embryo - to your womb.

Will I be able to access these treatments?

Access to treatments funded by the NHS varies across the UK, and waiting lists can be long.

Your GP can help you find out whether you are eligible for NHS treatment.

Some women choose private treatment, but this can be expensive.

There is a lot to consider when deciding where is best to seek treatment, so carefully consider which clinic in your area is best for you.

Look at the success rates, costs and locations of clinics:

Visit Total Fertility

Find out more about conceiving, fertility and IVF:

Visit the NHS website