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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


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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

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.

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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.

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Male infertility - Symptoms & Causes | Healthy Male

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Read more on Healthy Male - Andrology Australia website

Male infertility - myDr

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.

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Sperm health | Healthy Male

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Fertility and infertility | VARTA

Fertility is the ability to conceive and have children. Most of us take our fertility for granted but the process of reproduction is complexand sometimes couples experience difficulties when they try to have a baby. If you are planning to have a babythere are some things you and your partner can doto improve your chance of conceiving and having a healthy baby.

Read more on VARTA - Victorian Assisted Reproductive Treatment Authority 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…

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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…

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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.

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