Many couples experience difficulty conceiving, and are often unsure about when to seek help. Knowing what is normal fertility and what can affect your fertility can help you in making decisions regarding your care.

The stats

For each menstrual cycle, a normally fertile couple has only a 20% chance of conceiving. The precise figure is slightly higher in your early twenties and drops to only 5% after the age of 40. Whilst half of all couples will conceive within 3 months, it is not until 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse has passed that 90% of couples will have fallen pregnant. This means that 1 in 10 couples will still be trying to conceive after a year.

For couples taking a little longer, there is an identifiable underlying cause in only two-thirds of such cases. Many of these conditions are treatable, and do not always require IVF. For those in whom the difficulties remain “unexplained”, half will conceive over the following 12 months without any specific treatment.

Seeking advice

Specialist advice is usually sought after 12 months of trying. Earlier review is recommended for those over 35 years of age, or if there is another reason to suspect a fertility problem (e.g. previous removal of a fallopian tube or irregular periods).


Helping you to have a baby usually begins by assessing your, and your partner’s, general health. It is helpful if both partners can come to the initial appointment. Initial tests assess whether:

  • The ovaries are likely to be releasing an ova (“egg”) each cycle
  • The tubes are open, thus allowing the ova to move through the tube and meet the sperm
  • The semen quality

To gather this information for you it is likely that you will need:

  • Blood tests
  • An ultrasound
  • Semen analysis

Before falling pregnant

Even before falling pregnant, there are many things you can do to optimise your own and your future baby’s health.

  • Commence a multivitamin with folate
  • Make sure your vaccinations are up to date (rubella, whooping cough, influenza)
  • See your doctor to check any medical conditions (e.g. diabetes or blood pressure) are well-controlled and that your medications are safe for a developing baby
  • Start making small changes towards a healthy lifestyle now:
    • Seek help to quit smoking
    • Find physical activities you enjoy and that provide a social outlet – this will be important later on
    • Seek out fruit and vegetables to add nutrition to your diet. Make a plan to tackle any weight issues slowly and with support

Who needs to come to Fertility Appointments?

Fertility issues affect both members of a couple, and we encourage couples to attend together wherever possible.

The first visit is generally 40 minutes, and booked in the female partner’s name. If your GP has been able to arrange a semen analysis prior to your visit, there will be no charge for the male partner at this time.