Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive despite having unprotected sex. It is common, affecting 1 in every 7 couples in the UK. It may take longer to conceive naturally depending on your personal circumstances. However, if you have not conceived after one year of trying, we recommend that couples see their GP. For women aged 36 over and couples with known fertility problems, we recommend seeing a GP sooner, after six months of trying.
For healthy women under the age of 35, there is roughly a 25% chance of getting pregnant during ovulation. After turning 35, a woman’s reproductive potential begins to decrease and after the age of 40, the chances of becoming pregnant naturally fall to 10% during ovulation.
A medical diagnosis of infertility involves a review of your full medical history, a routine physical examination and specific blood analyses. For women, the basic tests include a basal hormone assessment, an ultrasound scan and a hysterosalpingography (an X-ray to assess the uterine cavity and fallopian tubes). The range of tests required may be extended depending on the patient’s personal circumstances. For men, there is a detailed semen analysis which evaluates its quality, assessed via a seminogram test.
Primary infertility refers to couples who have not been able to conceive despite having regular unprotected sex for at least one year. Secondary infertility in contrast, refers to couples who were able to conceive before, but are having problems or are unable to conceive or get pregnant again.
Ovulation, or a woman’s fertile period, occurs around halfway through each cycle, on roughly the fourteenth day in a supposed 28-day cycle. It has been proven that 24 hours after ovulation there is a rise in base body temperature of between 0.4 and 0.6 degrees. This is the signal on which the control method is based, marking the days on which ovulation occurs.
Once the ovum (egg) has left the ovary it survives approximately 48 hours and it is only during this time that it can be fertilised by spermatozoa, which maintain their capacity for fertilisation for a maximum of 72 hours. In any case, it is better not to be obsessed with monitoring ovulation, because anxiety about pregnancy is counterproductive to getting pregnant and it can even damage a couple’s relationship. Nevertheless, the probability of a spontaneous pregnancy after one year of trying decreases greatly, even with careful scheduling of sexual relations.
Many women are choosing to have children later in life, but fertility decreases over time. Female fertility decreases more rapidly after 35 and male fertility gradually decreases after the age of 40. Men and women are most fertile in their early 20’s.
There is no legal limit that prevents a couple from having fertility treatment. Outcomes depend on the circumstances of each couple, on their health and physical condition. For women, 50 is a reasonable limit beyond which fertility treatment is not typically recommended.
Take a look at this NHS page for more useful advice https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Fertility/Pages/Protectyourfertility.aspx