Fertility FAQs

Whether you are new to fertility treatment or have undergone treatment cycles before, it’s likely that you may have a list of questions about the process and what to expect. Explore the answers to frequently asked questions below, from other people who have been through the experience.

Infertility is described as the inability to achieve a successful pregnancy within 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse, or within 6 months for women who are aged 35 or older.1

Roughly, one third of infertility cases can be attributed to male factors and one third to female factors. A combination of both male and female factors, as well as unexplained infertility, make up the other third.2

Discover more about the causes of infertility

If you and your partner have been trying to conceive for over a year, you may wish to speak to a doctor to determine the underlying cause. Your doctor will ask you a number of questions about your medical and sexual history. Additionally, you may have a physical examination, blood tests, and a chlamydia test. For women, it is common to have an ultrasound scan, whilst men will undergo a semen analysis test.3

IVF is a common type of fertility treatment used to treat infertility. It involves the fertilisation of an egg with sperm in a laboratory.4

Learn more about IVF and what it involves

ICSI is an extension of traditional IVF and is used to overcome male factor infertility. It involves the same protocol as IVF, however the fertilisation of the egg in the laboratory is different. Rather than allowing the sperm to naturally fertilise the egg in a dish, an embryologist will directly inject the sperm into the egg to allow for fertilisation to occur.4
As IVF requires highly trained professionals and sophisticated laboratory equipment, alongside various fertility medications, it can be an expensive procedure. However, it is possible to have IVF funded on the NHS – speak with your doctor or contact your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to find out whether NHS-funded IVF is available in your area.

Criteria for NHS-funded IVF is determined by local integrated care systems (ICSs). These can include5:

  • not having any children already, from both your current and any previous relationships
  • being a healthy weight
  • not smoking
  • falling into a certain age range

Although NICE recommend for up to three cycles of IVF to be offered on the NHS, some ICSs only offer one cycle, or only offer NHS-funded IVF in exceptional circumstances.5
Speak with your doctor or contact your local ICSs for more information on the specific eligibility criteria in your area.

Fertility treatment can have an impact on both your physical and emotional wellbeing, with many patients describing the process as one of the most stressful life events to experience.6 It is therefore important to look after your wellbeing throughout your fertility journey.
Studies have demonstrated the positive impact of coping strategies and psychosocial interventions on managing feelings of stress and anxiety.7,8 Additionally, your fertility clinic should offer you counselling during your treatment which has been shown to directly benefit patients’ well-being.9

If you are having NHS-funded treatment, you will be referred to the clinic that is nearest to you. If you have decided to privately fund your treatment, you may benefit from using the “Choose a Fertility Clinic” service provided by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) which offers a comprehensive breakdown of the services offered by each clinic, as well as inspector and patient ratings, and clinic success rates.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm [Last accessed: April 2022].
  2. Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. What is infertility and what are its causes? Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/menshealth/conditioninfo/infertility [Last accessed: April 2022].
  3. National Health Service. Diagnosis: Infertility. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/diagnosis/ [Last accessed: April 2022].
  4. National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health (UK). Fertility: Assessment and Treatment for People with Fertility Problems. London: Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists; 2013. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK247932/ [Last accessed: April 2022].
  5. National Health Service. IVF: Availability. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/ivf/availability/ [Last accessed: April 2022].
  6. Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology. Preparing for IVF: Emotional Considerations. Available at: https://www.sart.org/patients/a-patients-guide-to-assisted-reproductive-technology/general-information/preparing-for-ivf-emotional-considerations [Last accessed: April 2022].
  7. Boivin J. A review of psychosocial interventions in fertility. Social Science & Medicine 2003;57:2325-2341. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14572840/ [Last accessed: April 2022].
  8. de Liz TM, Strauss B. Differential efficacy of group and individual/couple psychotherapy with infertile patients. Human Reproduction 2005;20:1324-1332. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/20/5/1324/2356650 [Last accessed: April 2022].
  9. Thia EWH, Vo Thanh LA, Loh SKE. Study on psychosocial aspects and support of in vitro fertilisation programme in an Asian population. Singapore Medical Journal 2007;48:61-68. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17245518/ [Last accessed: April 2022].
  10. Dağ ZÖ, Dilbaz B. Impact of obesity on infertility in women. Journal of the Turkish-German Gynecological Association 2015;16:111-117. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4456969/ [Last accessed: April 2022].
  11. Panth N, Gavarkovs A, Tamez M, Mattei J. The Influence of Diet on Fertility and the Implications for Public Health Nutrition in the United States. Frontiers in Public Health 2018;6. Available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2018.00211/full [Last accessed: April 2022].