When pregnancy does not result after a couple have had regular, unprotected sex for more than a year
The average time taken by a couple who are trying to conceive is 6 months, and 8 in 10 couples will be successful within a year. It is very common for a couple to feel anxious if pregnancy does not occur in the first few months, but most young couples are advised to continue trying for a year before seeking medical help. Older couples may decide to ask for medical help earlier because fertility in both sexes declines with age. Women over the age of 35 may find it particularly difficult to conceive.
If you are having problems conceiving, you and your partner should consult a doctor together. The doctor will ask about your sex life and whether you are having any specific difficulties with sexual intercourse (see Sexual problems). He or she will also check whether you have been having sexual intercourse around the middle of the woman’s menstrual cycle, when conception is most likely to take place.
Your doctor will take a medical history from both of you because previous illnesses or operations may be relevant. You will be asked how often you drink alcohol and how much, whether you smoke, and if you use any prescribed or recreational drugs. You may also be given a physical examination that includes your genitals.
If you are both relatively young and there is no obvious problem, your doctor may give you advice about measures that you can take to improve your likelihood of conceiving (see Maximizing your chance of conception) and suggest that you keep trying. If you have not had preconception counselling for advice on a healthy pregnancy, the doctor may discuss your health, diet, and lifestyle with you.
For most couples, it is only a matter of time before they conceive, and 9 in 10 couples are successful within 2 years.
If a problem is detected, the treatment and outlook will depend on the cause. Assisted conception or artificial insemination may be suitable for some couples if no cause is discovered or if the problem cannot be treated successfully.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.