If you and your partner have been trying to have a baby for over a year, then you might start to wonder whether there's a problem.

You shouldn't panic immediately, as it can take some couples a lot longer than others, often for no apparent reason!

 However, doctors and fertility specialists do recommend that if you've had regular sex without birth control for 12 months or more and you're under the age of 36, you should take a fertility test.

You should also consider seeing your doctor if you have any reason to be concerned about your fertility – for example if you've had treatment for cancer or you think you might have had a sexually transmitted infection.

 You should see your GP about a fertility test sooner if you're over the age of 36. Tests take time and as fertility decreased with age, the quicker you start the process the better if you suspect you might have a problem. Here are 10 things to look out for that might mean you need to visit your GP.

It's important to go for a fertility test together – as a couple if you are in a relationship. Initially, your doctor will ask you both questions about your health and lifestyle and he'll probably want to know things such as: 

  • Medical history
  • Any medicines you’re taking
  • Whether you smoke and drink and how often
  • If you’ve had contact with chemicals, toxins, or radiation at home or work

You'll also get asked about your sex life:  

  • How often you have sex
  • Your history of birth control use
  • If you’ve had an STI
  • If you have any pain during sex
  • Whether either of you have had sex outside of the relationship

Your doctor will ask you questions about your period too. For example, how long your cycle is, if you have regular periods, if you have spotting between periods, how heavy they are and if you've had any changes in blood flow. Your GP will also want to discuss any previous births, any complications with previous pregnancies and whether you've had any miscarriages. 

Examination

If you’re a woman, your GP may:

  • Weigh you to see if you have a healthy BMI
  • Examine your pelvic area to check for infection, lumps or tenderness which could be a sign of fibroids, ovarian tumours, endometriosis, or pelvic inflammatory disease.

If you’re a man, your GP may check your:

  • Testicles to look for any lumps or deformities
  • Penis to look at its shape and structure and for any abnormalities.

After a physical examination, your doctor might refer you to a fertility specialist who will carry out further tests. 

For women these include blood tests, a chlamydia test, an ultrasound scan to check your ovaries and womb, an x-ray of your fallopian tubes, and a laparoscopy to examine your womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries. 

Fertility tests for men include a semen analysis and a chlamydia test.

If you think you might have fertility problems or are wondering what the signs of a fertility problem may be, read our eBook, Common Signs of Infertility.

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Andrew Drakeley

Mr Andrew Drakeley is the Clinical Director at the Hewitt Fertility Centre, working principally at the Liverpool Women’s site but with managerial responsibility for Knutsford.

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