What to do if you’re struggling to conceive

Having a baby naturally doesn’t always come easy. Find out what to try next if you’re struggling to conceive

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  • Infertility is estimated to affect around one in seven UK couples (approximately 3.5 million people) at some point. The main treatments on offer are Clomid, Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI), In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). Sound confusing? Find out which treatment could be right for you…

  • IVF

    Success rate: 28.6% for under-35s

    The lowdown

    IVF is offered where there’s tubal damage, endometriosis, ovulation problems or unexplained infertility. “You’re normally given an injection every day for around two weeks, which suppresses your natural cycle,” says Alison McTavish, nurse manager for the assisted reproduction unit at Aberdeen Hospital.

    “Then a daily injection of a fertility hormone for around 12 days increases the number of eggs you’ll produce. Next you’ll be given a hormone injection to help your eggs mature, 34-38 hours before your eggs are due to be collected.”

    Eggs are collected and mixed with your partner’s sperm for 16-20 hours after which they’ll be checked for fertilisation.

    Finally, the fertilised eggs are grown in the lab for one to five days before one or two are transferred into your womb. 

    Treatment tips

    A miscarriage might mean more tests. “You’ll have to wait before starting the next treatment as the clinic will want to look into why you miscarried,” says Alison.

    Give your treatment the best chance possible. “I took time off work as I have quite a physical job and you’re advised not to do any heavy lifting,” says Paula Stott.

    It worked for me

    Paula Stott, 37, from South Yorkshire, is mum to Jamie, 14 months, who was born after her second IVF attempt.

    “I had seven out of 10 eggs that fertilised and two were put inside me. The two-week wait for the pregnancy test was tough, and when it was positive I was happy but anxious. 
I kept thinking something would go wrong – fortunately it didn’t though as little Jamie arrived two days early and was the most gorgeous thing I’ve ever seen.”

  • IUI

    Success rate: 15% for under-35s

    The lowdown

    IUI is used in cases of ovulation defects, poor cervical mucus, unexplained infertility and in some cases of male infertility.

    “Checks need to be done to prove that your tubes are fully open and that your partner has a good sperm count,” says Alison. Then a little work’s done on your partner’s sperm to make sure the very best are selected. “The prepared sperm is then placed directly into the uterus.”

    Treatment tips

    It doesn’t hurt. “I was scared that having my husband’s sperm injected inside me would be painful, but it wasn’t and only took about 20 minutes,” says Sarah Hall.

    You can use donor sperm. “Like ICSI you can also use donor sperm if there’s a problem with your partner’s,” says Alison McTavish.

    It worked for me

    Sarah Hall, 33, from London, successfully conceived Jamie, 1, after her first treatment of IUI.

    After two years of trying for a baby, I was unsure whether IUI would work. The night before testing day I was beside myself and in the end did the test at 2am! I couldn’t believe it when it showed up positive. I had a very smooth pregnancy and Jamie arrived at 39 weeks, a healthy 10lb!”


    Success rate:  not recorded 

    The lowdown

    “This is generally prescribed for women suffering from irregular periods or polycystic ovary syndrome,” says Alison.

    “It’s a tablet taken orally on specific days of your menstrual cycle and it works by stimulating your ovaries, so there’s more chance of ovulation and pregnancy.”

    Clomid is normally taken for a maximum of six cycles and if it’s still ineffective another type of infertility treatment will be recommended. 

    Treatment tips

    Be prepared for symptoms. “As with all infertility treatments you may get some side effects, like mood swings or nausea,” warns Alison.

    Watch your weight. You may be asked to lose weight by your GP before seeing 
a specialist.

    It worked for me

    Lisa Armstrong-Bowles, 35, from Surrey, mum to Erin, 3, and Callum, 4 months, used Clomid to help her conceive daughter Erin.

    “I had two unsuccessful cycles but on my third cycle things started to look up. My period was late so I took a test and was completely in shock when it was positive. Erin arrived at 37 weeks.”

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  • ICSI

    Success rate: 33.2% for under-35s

    The lowdown

    “This is a stage further than IVF and often offered when there’s a problem with sperm production, or in some cases when there’s been repeated failures with IVF,” says Alison.

    A single sperm is injected into each egg collected (egg collection is done the same way as for IVF) as part of an IVF cycle.

    Treatment tips

    You might have twins. “I had an early scan at 8 weeks as I had a bleed and was keeping everything crossed for a heartbeat, but was shocked to see two,” says Nikki Rushin.

    ICSI can be gruelling. “There were times where I got really bitter, but to get through it you need to talk to other mums in the same situation,” says Nikki.

    It worked for me

    Nikki Rushin, 38, from Nottingham, was finally successful with ICSI. She’s now a proud mummy to Willow and Jasmine, 8 months.

    “Two of the four fertilised eggs were put inside me. When the test was positive I was shocked but I didn’t think I could rely on it, until I did a further 30 tests over the course of the next week. Despite some bleeding and the loss of my mucus plug at 24 weeks, my beautiful girls held on and were delivered by c-section at 38 weeks.”

  • The Cost

    Treatment costs vary but a cycle of IVF can work out between £4,000-£8,000. You may be entitled to free IVF on the NHS. Contact your local Primary Care Trust to see if 
you qualify.

    For other treatments contact the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, where you can search for your nearest clinic and look up costs.

    For more info and support contact Fertility Friends, and Infertility Network UK.

    Celebs who’ve had help

    Friends star Courtney Cox-Arquette conceived daughter Coco, 5, after IVF. She said at the time, “In-Vitro is a wonderful thing that people can do in this day and age, and I’m lucky enough to be able to afford it.”

    Actress Brooke Shields used IVF to conceive daughter Rowan, 6. Her book Down Came the Rain chronicles her struggles with infertility and postnatal depression.

    Jools Oliver took Clomid to help conceive daughter Poppy, 7. “Luckily, I got pregnant within three months of taking it,” she says.

Last updated on 23 March 2014


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