Infertility is a term that refers to the inability of a couple to conceive a baby, despite having intercourse regularly without the use of contraception.
When should I be concerned?
Infertility is usually diagnosed when a couple have been trying to conceive for a long period of time without any success; 85 percent of couples who have regular unprotected sex conceive within 12 months; couples who are struggling to conceive after this period of time are advised to consult their GP. Just because a couple have failed to conceive after one year does not necessarily mean they are infertile, but it is worth getting checked out. Women who are over the age of 35 and couples who have a possible reason to be worried about fertility (if a person has previously had an illness or is currently undergoing treatment which may affect fertility, for example) are advised to visit their doctor after 6 months of trying to conceive.
How is infertility diagnosed?
The initial consultation with the GP will involve a number of questions relating to the couple�s age, lifestyle choices, medical history and sexual habits (for couples that are young, in good health and have not been trying for long, the doctor will usually recommend they try for longer). The doctor will also be keen to know if the woman has had any children in the past; if they have already had children, complications during the pregnancy or birth may have affected their fertility. Additional information such as how long the couple have not been using contraception will also be ascertained during the first consultation. The doctor may perform a brief examination in order to identify any obvious symptoms or signs that may be causing problems with conception; doctors will feel for tenderness around the womb for example as this could be a sign of endometriosis.
The testing procedure can be lengthy and complex, especially for women. If the GP has reason for concern, they will send the couple for further testing which will help to identify potential sources of infertility and rule out other options. Women often undergo hormone analysis tests, STI tests, thyroid function tests and x-rays and ultrasound examinations to identify any issues or abnormalities with the structures in the reproductive system. Men�s testing is less rigorous and usually involves an STI tests and sperm samples; the penis and testicles will also be checked for any abnormalities.
How common is infertility?
Infertility affects around 1 in 7 couples; however the proportion of couples who are classified medically as infertile is only 5 percent. Every couple is different, but statistics show that 85 percent of couples who are actively trying for a baby will conceive within one year. 20 percent of couples will conceive within a month and 70 percent of couples will conceive within a 6 month period.
What happens if I am diagnosed with a problem that could affect my fertility?
In many cases, your doctor will recommend a treatment that will help to treat the problem; for conditions where the fallopian tubes have become blocked, for example, an operation may be carried out to remove the blockage; this may enable the couple to conceive in the future. If a serious medical condition has been identified this will always be treated as quickly as possible. In many cases, treating the source of the problems may enable the couple to conceive in the future; losing weight, reducing stress and giving up drinking, smoking and rugs are some of the most common changes couples make in order to conceive a baby.