Written by Aisling Moran BSc (Hons)
7th Mar 2023 • 3 minute read
Headshot of Dr Rebecca Kingston
Reviewed by
Dr Rebecca Kingston MBChB, Medicine

There’s a lot to learn when you first start thinking about having a baby. For most people getting pregnant happen easily, for others it’s more difficult. 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving. If you’re struggling to get pregnant naturally or just curious about your options in the future, read our simplified guide to fertility resources in the UK.

Have regular sex

To get started, you should be having unprotected sex every 2-3 days.

In general, you’re usually told not to see a doctor unless you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year. About 84% of people will conceive naturally in their first year of trying.

When to see your doctor

If you've been trying to get pregnant for a year, you and your partner might consider seeing your doctor.

In some cases, you might want to see your doctor sooner. For example, if you:

  • are over 35 years — your fertility starts to decline more quickly after this age,
  • have previously had cancer treatment,
  • have abnormal private test results,
  • or have previously had an STI.

If you’re unsure whether you need to see your doctor, try the NHS fertility self-assessment.

What your doctor might ask you

When you visit a doctor expect them to ask you and your partner about:

  • any previous pregnancies (children and miscarriages)
  • how long you’ve been trying
  • how often you’re having sex
  • how long you’ve been off contraception
  • your period frequency
  • if you’re taking any current medications
  • your medical history, including any STIs
  • and your lifestyle, like smoking, drug use, and stress

The physical exam

After you’ve spoken with your doctor, you’ll be offered a physical exam.

If you’re a woman, this might include weighing you and checking your pelvic area for any infections, tenderness, or lumps. If you’re a man, this might include checking your testicles and penis for any abnormalities.

If your doctor has any cause for concern they’ll usually refer you to a specialist at an NHS hospital or fertility clinic.

Next steps

Fertility testing for women
This normally includes a fertility insights blood test to check your hormones — you can do this at home. Or if you visit a GP, they might also run an ovulation test, to check whether you’re releasing an egg each month.

If your doctor wants to investigate further, they might do some scans. You can find out more about when ultrasounds, x-rays, or laparoscopies might be offered.

Fertility testing for men
This normally includes a semen analysis to check for any sperm problems, like your sperm count. STI screening is likely to be run on both you and your partner.

If everything looks good, you might be told to keep trying — 50% of couples who don’t conceive naturally in the first year go on to get pregnant in the next 12 months.

Private fertility services in the UK

At any point, you always have the option to get some private tests run or to consult with a private specialist.

Private tests
There are many private testing options in the UK. These will offer you an initial screening test.