Getting started 

If you're having problems getting pregnant, see your GP. They will look at your medical history and give you a physical examination.

They may also recommend some lifestyle changes to help fertility.

Unless there are reasons that may put you at high risk of infertility, such as treatment for cancer in the past, you'll only be considered for infertility investigations and treatment after you've been trying for a baby for at least a year without becoming pregnant.

Your GP will be able to refer you to an infertility specialist at an NHS hospital or fertility clinic.

Referral to an infertility specialist

The specialist will ask about your fertility history, and may carry out a physical examination.

For women, you may have tests to check the levels of hormones in the blood and how well the ovaries are working. You may also have an ultrasound or X-ray, to see if there are any blockages or structural problems.

Men may be asked for a semen sample to test sperm quality.

If the specialist thinks your infertility could be treated by IVF, or if you've been unable to conceive for at least two years, you may qualify for funding for IVF treatment.

If IVF is the best treatment for you, the specialist will refer you to an assisted conception unit (see below).

Read more information about diagnosing infertility.

The assisted conception unit

Once you're accepted for treatment at the assisted conception unit, you and your partner will have a blood test for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis, and to check that you're immune to rubella (German measles). Also, your cervical screening tests should be up to date.

The specialist will investigate the amount of eggs in your body and their quality (your ovarian reserve). It will be assessed by measuring your anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) level.

This can be done with a blood test or by counting the number of egg containing follicles, known as your antral follicle count (AFC), using vaginal ultrasound. An AMH test can be done on any day of your cycle. Your AMH and AFC levels help to estimate how your ovaries will respond to IVF treatment.

Additional semen samples may be required.

The specialist will then discuss your treatment plan with you in detail.

Read more information about how IVF is performed.

You will need to sign consent forms giving permission for the use or storage of your eggs, sperm or embryos throughout the procedure.

You may find you need support and guidance while going through this process. Some people find counselling helpful.

Read more about the benefits of counselling and how to access it on the HFEA website.

Page last reviewed: 01/08/2013

Next review due: 01/08/2015