Mother and Baby

Unexplained Infertility

Section: Fertility

Between a quarter and a third of couples that have problems conceiving are told they have unexplained infertility. Find out how to get to the bottom of it

What is it?

If a couple has been trying to get pregnant for a year, but has had no luck despite having regular unprotected sex, doctors will start to do fertility tests to see if there are any problems.

There are many potential causes of infertility, but the basic checks that are done are to see if the man is producing enough high-quality sperm, that the woman is ovulating and that there is no blockage in the fallopian tubes or any other obvious problems that would stop sperm and egg meeting.

Once doctors have discounted these possibilities, they would diagnose unexplained infertility. It doesn’t mean there isn’t a cause, just that they don’t know what it is.

What are the symptoms?

Depending on age, around 80% of couples will fall pregnant within the first year of trying. By two years this has risen to 95%. If you’ve been trying for a year without success, your GP would start to do some tests and may refer you to a fertility clinic.

For women over the age of 35, the GP may start to do investigations sooner than a year, because we know that fertility declines with age.

For most couples with unexplained infertility, the woman is having regular periods and the man has healthy sperm but they just can’t get pregnant.

What can you do?

Try not to get frustrated with this diagnosis – we know how tempting it is.

At some point, you need to make the call to give up on the tests and go down the IVF route.

‘If couples are young we would probably advise them in the first instance to keep trying for two years,’ says Dr Yakoub Khalaf, a consultant in reproductive medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London. ‘For older couples, we would probably advise starting IVF. The success rates of IVF with unexplained infertility are just as good as for other causes of fertility.’

See your GP…

If you’ve been trying for a baby for a year with no success or sooner if you are over the age of 35.


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