Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Infertility

3-minute read

Infertility is common. Whether you are trying to fall pregnant for the first time, or are already parents who would like more children, infertility can be a stressful and frustrating experience for everyone involved. There is plenty you can do.

What is infertility?

Many people take time to fall pregnant.

But doctors call it infertility if a woman is not pregnant after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex.

What are the causes?

There are many causes of infertility.

Sometimes it is a problem with the woman, sometimes with the man, sometimes with both and sometimes there is no obvious reason for it.

For example, a woman may have:

  • hormonal disorders
  • damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
  • endometriosis
  • very thick cervical mucus

A man may have:

  • low sperm count
  • poor sperm movement or shape
  • no sperm released due to an obstruction, or ejaculation failure

Age is an important factor. From the age of 32, a woman’s chances of conceiving start to decrease, and from age 35, the rate of that decrease speeds up. Men aged 35 are half as fertile as they were at the age of 25, and from the age of 55, their fertility declines dramatically.

Your weight will also affect your fertility. Both women and men who are overweight have changes to their hormones that make it harder for them to be fertile.

Smokers are more likely to be infertile than non-smokers.

The more alcohol men and women drink, the less likely is a successful pregnancy.

Some sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea can reduce fertility in both men and women.

Read more about good fertility health.

Discussing infertility with your partner

For couples trying for a baby, it is normal to have feelings of uncertainty, disappointment and anxiety. It may affect a couple the same way or in different ways.

It is good to talk through any problems, and have both of you talk about how you feel.

If there are difficulties between you, talk to your doctor as a couple. Your doctor may refer you both to a counsellor if necessary.

You can also call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to discuss your options and speak with a maternal child health nurse.

Options for infertility

If you are infertile and want to have a child, there are many options.

You may increase your chance of falling pregnant if you know your most fertile days.

You can treat any underlying causes like endometriosis or sexually transmitted infections. You can adopt a child. You can use artificial insemination or you can seek a fertility treatment like in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

When to visit your doctor

If you’re under 35, you should think about seeing your doctor if you’ve been trying unsuccessfully for 12 months or more.

If you’re over 35, you should think about seeing your doctor if you’ve been trying for 6 months.

But you should see your doctor straight away if you would like to have a child and think you or your partner may have problems with fertility due to endometriosis, testicular problems or anything else.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: September 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

Fertility tests

There are a number of tests that are available to determine your fertility.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Female infertility - MyDr.com.au

There are several factors that can affect a woman's fertility. Treatments are available for many of the causes of female infertility and assisted reproductive technology such as IVF can help some women get pregnant.

Read more on myDr website

Infertility in men - Better Health Channel

A couple isn't suspected of fertility problems until they have tried and failed to conceive for one year.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Male infertility - Symptoms & Causes | Healthy Male

Male infertility What is male infertility? How common is it? What are the symptoms? What are the causes? What are the genetic causes? What can I do? How is it diagnosed? What are the treatment options? Can I do anything to prevent male infertility? Can older age cause male fertility problems? How to cope with infertility Your doctor’s appointment Resources and videos Resources Filter resources Type: Fact sheet Information guide Fact sheet Clinical summary guide Video Video Video Video RESET Fact sheet Genetic causes of male infertility fact sheet Download PDF Information guide Male infertility information guide Download PDF Fact sheet Male infertility fact sheet Download PDF Clinical summary guide Male infertility clinical summary guide (#5) Download PDF Video Men, sperm and healthy babies WATCH VIDEO Video What are the causes and consequences of male infertility? WATCH VIDEO Video Male infertility - Diagnosis, treatment and prevention WATCH VIDEO Video Male infertility - Symptoms and causes WATCH VIDEO SEE ALL RESOURCES

Read more on Healthy Male - Andrology Australia website

Male infertility - MyDr.com.au

Male infertility is a major factor in 30-50 per cent of difficulties conceiving. It usually results from low numbers of, or poor quality, sperm.

Read more on myDr website

Sperm health | Healthy Male

Sperm health How important is my health when I’m trying for a baby? How does being overweight affect fertility? How does smoking affect fertility? How does drinking alcohol affect fertility? How does age affect fertility? How can STIs affect fertility? How does the use of certain drugs or medications affect fertility? How do environmental and occupational chemicals affect fertility? Resources and videos Resources Filter resources Type: Fact sheet Booklet Video RESET Fact sheet Sperm health fact sheet Download PDF Booklet Your sperm and how to look after them Download PDF Video Sperm health and having a baby WATCH VIDEO SEE ALL RESOURCES

Read more on Healthy Male - Andrology Australia website

Problems becoming pregnant

If you've been trying unsuccessfully to fall pregnant for a year or more, it's time to see your doctor.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Infertility treatment | Jean Hailes

There are many reasons a woman may have difficulty becoming pregnant. There are a number of things you can do to increase the likelihood of becoming…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Considering donor conception | VARTA

Your decision to have children with the help of donated eggs, sperm, or embryos is a lifelong one. It will be the result of an extensive process of consultation and discussion. Your fertility specialist and clinic counsellor will provide you with information about using donor gametes (sperm and eggs) or embryos and can help you explore the social and emotional considerations. Am I eligible? Eligibility requirements for fertility treatments in Victoria are outlined in Section 10 of the Assisted Reproductive Treatment Act 2008. According to the Act, a doctor must be satisfied that: the woman is unlikely to become pregnant other than by a treatment procedure; or the woman is unlikely to be able to carry a pregnancy or give birth to a child without a treatment procedure; or the woman is at risk of transmitting a genetic abnormality or genetic disease to a child born as a result of a pregnancy conceived other than by a treatment procedure, including a genetic abnormality or genetic disease for which the woman’s partner is the carrier. What’s involved? There are many reasons why donor sperm, eggs or embryos may be needed. You can read more about the donor conception process and what is involved here. If you are considering donor conception, VARTA recommends following these steps: Speak to your GP or fertility specialist about your fertility assessment and donor conception options. Discuss donor conception with your partner (if any) and family. Find a donor. This could be through your fertility clinic, advertisement, a known or overseas donor. Have counselling sessions with your treating fertility clinic. Complete the required consent forms with your counsellor. This will cover details such as withdrawal of consent and what happens in the event of death. You and your partner (if any) will need to be involved in this. Undertake fertility treatment at your fertility clinic. Finding a donor Once you are ready to proceed with donor conception, the next step is to find the right donor. There are many options depending on your circumstances and preferences, including using a fertility clinic donor, a donor you know, advertising for a donor or using an overseas donor. Using a fertility clinic donor Most fertility clinics have sperm donors, with some also recruiting egg and embryo donors. If donor numbers become low, there may be a waiting list for access. All donations must be altruistic, meaning donors are not allowed to be paid for donating (apart from reimbursement of expenses). Clinic donors are limited to donating to ten women (including their current or former partner). Donors are medically screened. They (and their partner) have counselling to inform them of their rights and responsibilities before donating. All donors consent to their identifying details (name, date of birth, last known address) being released to the donor-conceived person when they turn 18. Donors complete a donor profile giving some information about themselves including why they donated, their hobbies, personality, appearance, and whether they are open to being contacted before the child is an adult. Potential recipients are usually able to read these profiles and, if possible, choose which donor they prefer. You can find out more from your fertility clinic. Using a known donor A known donor could be an acquaintance, friend, or family member. Using a known donor often requires a proactive approach to letting people know you are looking for a donor. Word of mouth or your personal social network can be useful tools. You may want to consider the following questions when finding a known donor: What criteria are you looking for in a donor (e.g. level of ongoing involvement or contact) and what would exclude someone as a potential donor? How important is the donor's appearance, religion, personal characteristics, morals and beliefs, level of education, etc.? Why is the person donating to you? Do they feel obliged to donate to you? The decision to donate may have long lasting implications for the donor, their partner (if any), and their family, so it is a good idea to ensure they do not feel an obligation to donate, but rather want to do it for their own reasons. The relationship between all parties, including the parents and the donor, and the donor and the child, can vary enormously from no contact to occasional contact or an ongoing relationship. It is important that everyone involved including partners (if any) express how they feel about the arrangement, roles and consent. Regardless of the level of involvement, maintaining a positive ongoing relationship can be beneficial for known donors, parents and the child. This is particularly important where there is a co-parenting arrangement in which the donor is actively involved in the child's upbringing. Expectations, feelings, and needs are likely to change over time. As things change, it is important to focus on ensuring positive outcomes. Some factors that can help contribute to positive relationships are: a high level of trust and a capacity to communicate openly and honestly an ability to manage change and conflict a solid grounding of shared values and priorities holding each other in high regard a level of emotional maturity. Using advertising In Victoria, it is a legal requirement to have an advertisement for a donor approved by the Health Minister before it is published. This includes sending your draft advertisement for approval to: Minister for Health Department of Health and Human Services GPO BOX 4541 Melbourne VIC 3000 Email Address: art.enquiries@dhhs.vic.gov.au Generally, advertisements: Stand out by uniquely reflecting you and your situation. Describe you and why you need a donor. Clearly state what you are seeking in the title and/or the opening sentence. Include a short explanation of what reasonable expenses (e.g. medical, travel) will be reimbursed. Consider privacy (use a non-identifying email address, PO box, mobile number rather than home number). It may take some time before your advertisement is successful. Not everyone who responds will be a suitable donor for you. You can find examples of advertisements here. Using an overseas donor If you would like to import donated eggs, sperm, or embryos (created using donor eggs or sperm) to Victoria for treatment, you need to apply to VARTA for approval to import donated material. In considering your application, VARTA will determine whether the imported eggs, sperm, or embryos will be used in a way that complies with Victorian law. You can find more information including import criteria in the Victorian guidelines. It is important to note that you cannot use donations from anonymous donors within Australia. Anonymous donation does not comply with Victorian law. Although anonymity may seem appealing, it is important to consider the impact of this on your potential child. With overseas unknown donors, no contact or further exchange of information (e.g. medical, biological or cultural background) is possible between the donor and child.

Read more on Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority website

Fertility | Jean Hailes

Fertility is your ability to produce a child. Infertility is when you have had 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse and you have not become…

Read more on Jean Hailes for Women's Health website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.