Many factors can affect a couple’s chances of conceiving, such as:
- your age
- your general health
- your reproductive health
- how often you have sex
Some women become pregnant quickly, while others take longer. This may be upsetting, but it’s normal.
Most couples (about 84 out of every 100) will get pregnant within a year if they have regular sex and do not use contraception.
However, women become less fertile as they get older. One study found that among couples having regular unprotected sex:
- aged 19 to 26 – 92% will conceive after 1 year and 98% after 2 years
- aged 35 to 39 – 82% will conceive after 1 year and 90% after 2 years
The effect of age on men’s fertility is less clear.
What does ‘regular sex’ mean?
Having regular sex means having sex every 2 to 3 days throughout the month.
Some couples may try to time having sex with when the woman ovulates (releases an egg). However, guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) advises that this can be stressful and is not recommended.
Fertility problems affect 1 in 7 couples in the UK.
Lots of factors can cause fertility problems, including:
- hormonal (endocrine) disorders, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and problems with the thyroid or pituitary glands
- physical disorders such as obesity, anorexia nervosa or excessive exercise
- disorders of the reproductive system, such as infections, blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis or a low sperm count
Some of these factors affect either women or men. In around 40% of infertile couples, there is a problem with both the man and woman.
The most common cause is ovulation failure (which can be caused by lots of different things) and sperm disorders. In 25% of couples, fertility problems cannot be explained.
Read more detailed information about the causes of infertility.
If you’ve been trying for a baby for one to two years without success, see your GP for advice.