30 January 2019
Infertility is defined as the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex (without contraception) between a man and a woman. Around 1 in 7 couples may have fertility problems, this is 3.5 million people in the UK.
The simple answer to the question is that you should seek medical advice if you do not get pregnant, despite having regular unprotected sex for 12 months or more (or after six cycles of insemination for same-sex couples and single women). Fertility declines with age and women aged 35 or older should seek help after 6 months of trying to get pregnant as it is best not to delay if they need treatment.
Some women freeze their eggs because they have a medical condition or are undergoing treatment that will affect their fertility. However, it can also be used by women who are not ready or able to have children yet and want the chance of conceiving in the future.
Infertility in women
Once a woman has a regular (monthly) menstrual cycle, any change in her menstrual cycle could indicate a problem. If her menstrual cycle becomes less regular, infrequent or absent then there could be a problem with ovulation. Heavier or more painful periods could be a sign of fibroids in the womb or a condition called endometriosis. Pelvic pain could be a sign of infection or endometriosis. It could also be a problem within the ovaries. For example, eggs may be of low fertility, or ovulation may not occur, or it may occur but irregularly which would affect how often a woman has her period. Infertility could also be due to problems with the Fallopian tubes caused by a blockage (often due to infection or endometriosis) or with the uterus (womb). Women can have fertility problems even if they still have regular periods.
Infertility in men
There are fewer signs for male infertility. A man usually has to have medical tests to find out if he has a fertility problem. A man’s ability to have sex and ejaculate can be normal even if he has fertility problems. Men who have had mumps during puberty and men who have an undescended testis (testicle) could be at risk of fertility problems. An undescended testis means that the testis is not located in the scrotum. But infertility in men is most often due to low sperm count, poor sperm quality or sperm that do not move properly. Finally, men can have problems ejaculating, which makes it difficult to have sex and to father a child through sexual intercourse.
Sometimes both partners can have fertility problems or sometimes the cause may be unknown. In general, approximately 30% of fertility problems are due to the woman, 30% due to the man, and 30 to 40% to both or to unknown causes.
Advice from Mr Ehab Kelada, Fertility Consultant at Spire Gatwick Park Hospital. If you have any concern about your fertility and wish to run some basic tests in order to assess your fertility potential or if you or your partner may have any fertility problem, please call on 01293 778 906 to book an appointment.