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.
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
- 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.
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