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The official definition of 'infertility'

Three months? A year? Or more? How long do doctors wait until they will diagnose 'infertility'?

Posted: 11 April 2007
by Laura Lee Davies

Getting pregnant might seem a blantantly simple process, but because several factors such as the right hormonal balance, well-timed sex around monthly ovulation and, indeed, the actual process of successful ovulation itself, need to be right, even couples who have no fertility problems can find they take a few months to successfully get pregnant.

Average time-frame for successful conception
The question, 'How long does it take to conceive?' is frequently asked.
According to the regulatory body known as the HFEA (Human Fertility and Embryology Authority), infertility is the most common reason for women aged 20 to 45 to visit their GP, after pregnancy itself. The HFEA publish annual figures which take a snap shot of the adult population of the UK, and their most recent figures were gathered between April 1st 2003 and March 31 2004.
Out of 100 couples trying to conceive naturally, through regular sexual intercourse and without any form of assisted conception, 20 per cent will conceive in the first month of trying. Seventy per cent will have conceived after six months of trying, and 85 per cent after a year.
It takes a further five per cent up to 18 months to get pregnant, and another five per cent will conceive after two years of trying.
It is estimated that around five per cent will not manage to conceive after two years of trying. The definition of 'infertility', according to the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), is when a couple have tried for a baby for two years, through regular unprotected sex.

What can you do when you have been trying for some time?
Around one in every seven couples will have some difficulty getting pregnant. That includes those who do still successfully conceive, but only after several months. Although it can be frustrating, try to remain relaxed and enjoy the exciting process of trying for a baby for the first six months, without thinking about any potential problems.
Beyond that, read our articles: Six months and still nothing? and 12 months and still nothing?, and do not feel that you have failed, because there are many reasons why you may not have successfully conceived before infertility is an issue at all.
Even though 'infertility' is not diagnosed until two years have passed, you can start to investigate infertility before then, which may help to prepare you for the options your GP might suggest.

The HFEA website is a really useful resource for advice and information if you want to know more.

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