One in seven couples in the UK has trouble conceiving. So if you are one of them, you’re most definitely not alone. However, it is important to remember that getting pregnant isn’t always immediate. It is estimated that 85 per cent of couples will take up to a year of having regular (every two to three days) unprotected sex to conceive.
If infertility continues for over a year, many people are then advised to seek medical advice. The cause of infertility can be located in either the man or the woman’s body. It is thought that a third of fertility problems can be attributed to the woman, a third to the man, whilst 23 per cent of cases remain unexplained. There are many tests which can discover the root of the problem but these investigations can be a lengthy process. In women, infertility is caused by complications associated with ovulation, or the womb and the fallopian tubes. There are various underlying conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome or thyroid problems, which can hinder or prevent an egg being released. Similarly, there are conditions which can damage the womb or the fallopian tubes; these include fibroids, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease. Certain types of medication and other types of surgery in the pelvic region can also affect a woman’s chance of conceiving. Female fertility also decreases with age, declining rapidly after the age of 35, and can be affected by other environmental factors include smoking, alcohol consumption and being overweight.
There are various tests that can establish the causes of infertility and help with devising a treatment plan. These range from a physical examination of the abdomen, to hormone tests, to ‘key-hole’ operative investigations. There are then a number of surgical procedures, which can be an alternative or adjunct to embarking on a programme of IVF.