1. Approximately one in seven couples in the UK have fertility issues, although 84% of couples conceive within a year.1Couples who have been trying to conceive for three or more years without success have a probability of one in four of conceiving within the next year, however this probability can be lower than that. 1While there are many reasons a couple may struggle to conceive, there are also various treatment options for infertility available on the NHS. 1
2. In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is one of the predominant techniques to help people with fertility issues to conceive, IVF involves the removal of an egg from the woman’s ovaries and fertilising it with sperm in a laboratory before returning the embryo back to the woman’s womb.2NICE recommends that IVF can offered to women under the age of 43 who have been trying to conceive naturally for at least two years, or who have had 12 cycles of artificial insemination, with six of these using intrauterine insemination. 2
3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s ovaries, the main features being irregular periods (and irregular ovulation), excess androgen (high levels of ‘male’ hormones leading to symptoms such as excess facial hair) and polycystic ovaries (where the ovaries are enlarged and contain many fluid-filled follicles).3PCOS can often lead to difficulty getting pregnant due to irregular or non-existent ovulation. 3There is currently no cure for PCOS, however there are treatments for the symptoms and a simple surgical procedure called laparoscopic ovarian drilling (LOD) can be recommended to help with fertility issues. 3
4. Endometriosis is a condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows elsewhere in the body, often in the ovaries or fallopian tubes, which can be very painful and may cause fertility issues.4Symptoms include lower abdominal and back pain; extremely painful periods; painful sex; pain going to the toilet while menstruating; feeling sick, constipation, diarrhoea or blood in urine or stool while menstruating, and difficulty conceiving. 4Treatment can range from over-the-counter painkillers to hormonal medicines and contraceptives, as well as surgery to remove the endometriosis tissue and even surgery to remove part or all of the organs affected by endometriosis, for example with a hysterectomy. 4
5. Abortion refers to the procedure to terminate a pregnancy, this can either be done with medicine or a surgical procedure.5In the UK, abortions can be carried out at NHS hospitals or licensed clinics and are usually available free on the NHS. Waiting times are usually no more than two weeks from first contact with an abortion provider to the abortion being done. 5In England, Wales and Scotland, most abortions take place before 24 weeks of pregnancy. Some can take place after 24 weeks in limited circumstances when either the mother or baby’s life would be at risk from continuing the pregnancy. 5The choice to have an abortion lies with the pregnant person alone, and there are various support and advice organisations available via the NHS.