It can be an emotional and stressful time, often leaving them feeling out of control and powerless.
A survey of more than 1,000 women by the Infertility Network UK found 47 per cent who did not become pregnant within three months of trying said they found it stressful and 40 per cent said they assumed that there was something physically wrong with them.
“Sometimes things in life don’t go according to plan,” says Valentine Akande, a fertility expert at Spire Bristol Hospital. “Once you’ve made the big decision to try for a baby it can seem like the hard part is over but for some that’s just the beginning of the journey.
“Around one in six couples have difficulty conceiving and the causes of fertility problems vary. Common causes in women include lack of regular ovulation (the monthly release of an egg), blockage of the fallopian tubes and endometriosis, although in 25-30 per cent of cases the cause is unexplained. In men the most common cause is poor quality of semen.”
Daily Express medical adviser Dr Rosemary Leonard says one major factor is that couples are leaving it later in life to start families.
“This is having an impact on fertility which gradually declines after the age of 30. I see this every day in my surgery. It’s taking couples longer to conceive which can be extremely stressful.”
Options vary but include medical treatment for lack of regular ovulation, surgical procedures such as treatment for endometriosis, blocked tubes, fibroids or ovarian cysts and assisted conception such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
One new option, which may be suitable for couples who are not ready for costly medical procedures such as IVF, is the Stork (thestorkconception.co.uk). This home-conception aid, which is available from Superdrug and costs £100, uses a “condom-like” sheath to collect sperm which is then placed in an applicator and inserted close to the cervical opening.
Professor Ellis Downes, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology, says the device, which had a recorded success rate in trials of 20 per cent (compared with 16-21 per cent for IUI), could be useful to couples with common fertility issues such as low sperm count or motility, ovulation timing or unexplained infertility.
For couples with unexplained infertility, lifestyle changes can have a major impact.
Here are Valentine Akande’s top tips to maximise the chances of conceiving:
1. Know your cycle. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days during which there is a limited window of approximately six days where a woman is most fertile.
Ovulation (release of the egg) occurs around day 14 when the egg is produced. The best time to achieve a pregnancy is to have intercourse two days before ovulation at around the time cervical (fertile) mucus is produced.
Timing sex within these days is absolutely crucial in order to conceive. Ovulation predictor kits (which can be bought over the counter) can help.