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What is infertility?
The word fertility describes the natural ability to produce children. Infertility refers to when a couple has regular unprotected sex but struggles to get pregnant.
84% of couples who have unprotected sex every 2-3 days will become pregnant naturally within a year. But it’s thought that 1 in 7 couples in the UK -- that’s roughly 3.5 million people -- may struggle to become pregnant.
For couples who have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for 3 years, the chances of conceiving naturally in the next year are low (25% at most).
There are 2 types of infertility:
- Primary: When a woman hasn’t had a child before and struggles to conceive.
- Secondary: When a woman who has had at least one child in the past struggles to conceive.
What causes infertility?
There are a number of possible causes of infertility and both men and women can be affected. In around a quarter of cases, the exact cause of infertility can’t be pinpointed.
Factors that can affect fertility in both men and women include age, weight, STIs, smoking, alcohol, stress and environmental factors like being exposed to certain solvents and pesticides.
In women, the most common causes of infertility are a lack of regular ovulation, damage or a blockage in the fallopian tubes, and endometriosis. (Endometriosis is a condition where similar tissue to that which lines the womb is found in other parts of the body.)
In men, infertility is most commonly caused by issues with the semen.
How can you treat infertility?
The length of time it takes for a woman to get pregnant varies a lot from one individual to another. If you have been trying to conceive consistently for a year, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. If you’re over the age of 36 or already aware of possible fertility problems, you should see your GP sooner.
There are different kinds of infertility treatment. Medicines such as Clomid help to promote regular ovulation. There are surgical options to treat endometriosis and repair damage to the fallopian tubes. Finally, there are options for assisted conception such as IUI and IVF.
What can you do to help increase fertility?
Whilst it’s not guaranteed to work in every situation, certain lifestyle changes can make the conception process easier. Ensuring you’re neither overweight nor underweight is a good first step for both men and women.
It’s also best for women to avoid alcohol completely when trying to conceive. Men should be careful not to drink excessively. Smoking, including passive smoking, can also affect conception.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is fertility treatment?
There are a few different fertility treatments your doctor may recommend depending on your situation. Medication can ensure regular ovulation and surgery can treat blocked/damaged fallopian tubes and endometriosis. Finally there are assisted conception methods such as IVF and IUI.