Infertility is the term used for a couple or single person who cannot get pregnant (conceive) despite regular unprotected sex, or regular inseminations (in the case of using donor sperm).

Around 12% or one in six couples may experience difficulties in conceiving; however the actual number of infertile couples is lower around 5%.

Conceiving without fertility treatment

About 85% of couples will conceive naturally within one year if they have regular unprotected sex, or regular inseminations (if using donor sperm). For every 100 couples trying to conceive naturally:

  • 20 will conceive within one month.
  • 70 will conceive within six months.
  • 85 will conceive within one year.
  • 90 will conceive within 18 months.  
  • 95 will conceive within two years.

A couple will only be diagnosed as being infertile after two years of trying to conceive. There are two main types of infertility:

  • Primary infertility Where someone has never successfully conceived and achieved pregnancy.
  • Secondary infertility Where a person who has had one or more babies in the past, is having difficulty in conceiving again.

When to seek help

Women take different amounts of time to get pregnant. It is often advisable to seek help from your GP after a year of trying. Women age 35 or over, or anyone who is already aware of fertility problems should seek advice from their GP sooner. A GP will be able to undergo initial infertility tests for common causes and may suggest treatments or referral to a specialist. If infertility problems are diagnosed, then there are many different treatments available.

Chances of success

Couples who have been trying to conceive for more than three years without success have a 25% or less chance of getting pregnant within the following 12 months. There are several treatment options available for couples experiencing infertility. These include as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). The success rate of these treatments is 15% for IUI and 29% for IVF at each attempt, and these decrease as a woman gets older.