Getting pregnant: when to seek help

Getting pregnant: when to seek help with fertility if you haven't fallen pregnant within a year of trying for a baby

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If after a year of having regular unprotected sex you’re still not pregnant, it’s worth going to see your GP. Women over the age of 35 should see their GP if they’re still not pregnant after six months. This is because any tests you might need can take months, so the earlier you have them the greater the range of fertility treatments will be open to you. 

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You won’t be alone in asking for help. One in seven couples in the UK has difficulty getting pregnant. 

What can cause fertility problems?

Fertility problems can lie with either partner. In about a third of cases, the problem lies with the woman, in another third the man, and the rest are unexplained.  So it can be quicker if you both are checked out at the same time. Click here for some ideas of what the problem could be.

The first basic fertility tests

When you go to your GP for help getting pregnant, he or she will want to run some fertility tests. Your GP will take a blood sample from you to check your hormone levels, a urine test for chlamydia, and a smear test. Your partner’s sperm will be checked to see how much there is, if it’s normal and is moving well, and he’ll also have a urine test for chlamydia.

Before you get to the surgery you can check for yourself to see if and when you’re ovulating, using a home ovulation test kit. You can find these in most chemists. 

When the fertility test results are back

If all the results are normal, you’re under 35 and you’ve been trying for less than 18 months, your GP might suggest ways you can boost your fertility.

If the results show that something may well be wrong, or if you’re over 35, your GP will probably refer you to a fertility specialist.

Tests to find out why you can’t get pregnant are free on the NHS, but if you are referred to an NHS hospital or fertility clinic, there can be a waiting list. If it’s long ask your GP if there’s any way to speed it up. If you can afford it, you may want to be referred to a private fertility clinic.

It’s also worth asking your GP who pays for any fertility drugs or treatment that may be needed later.

Where to go for help getting pregnant

Your GP’s surgery will have one or two hospitals or fertility clinics that they refer their patients to. It’s worth asking how they made their choice and what their facilities and success rates for getting pregnant are like.

Also ask your GP if there are any more clinics licensed by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) local to you and if they take NHS patients. Not all do, and not all offer a full range of treatments.

If you decide that you do want fertility treatment, it’s important to choose a clinic that feels right for you. This is such a stressful time that you want to make sure that you’re comfortable and happy with the people you’ll be dealing with and the facilities on offer.

You can find out more about each clinic by asking them to send you a brochure, or you can visit it.  Depending on your age, it’s worth asking if they have a cut-off age for fertility treatment. Other questions to ask include:

*What is their live birth rate for particular age groups?

*If you’ll see the same doctor every time?

*If you’ll have the chance to discuss fertility operations with your doctor?

*What tests are carried out at the clinic?

*What facilities they have for storing frozen eggs or sperm?

*Does the clinic have access to donor sperm, eggs or embryos?

Many women who have had fertility treatment say it’s a good idea to go for a clinic that’s within easy travelling distance. You’ll have a lot of appointments and some might be early in the morning, so the less trekking you have to do, the better.

Remember, it’s not just physical

Going through fertility treatment is a hugely stressful experience. Not only do you have all your hopes and dreams pinned on each treatment, but your body is undergoing massive changes because of the drugs you may have to take.

If your clinic offers counselling, it’s worth taking up the offer. Or ask if there are support groups where you can speak to people who’ve gone through treatment so that you can find out good ways to cope. There are also internet sites – see our own chat room- where you can post messages or just see what other women in your situation are saying.

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