Warning notification:Warning

Unfortunately, you are using an outdated browser. Please, upgrade your browser to improve your experience with HSE. The list of supported browsers:

  1. Chrome
  2. Edge
  3. FireFox
  4. Opera
  5. Safari

When to go to your GP - Fertility problems

Go to your GP if you or your partner:

  • are a woman age 35 or under and have been trying to get pregnant for more than 1 year without success
  • are a woman age 36 or over and have been trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months without success
  • know you have a health problem that can affect fertility
  • had previous fertility treatment
  • are taking medicine that may affect your fertility or pregnancy
  • need donor sperm or eggs to have a baby
What we mean by health problems that can affect fertility

There are a number of health conditions and treatment that can affect fertility.

These are:

  • previous cancer treatment
  • previous chlamydia or gonorrhoea
  • hormone problems
  • long-term health problems like cystic fibrosis

In women these:

  • no periods or periods that do not come every month
  • family history of menopause before age 40
  • endometriosis
  • polycystic ovaries
  • previous ectopic pregnancy
  • fibroids
  • pelvic or abdominal (tummy) surgery
  • surgery to your cervix

In men these are:

  • surgery or injury to your testicles
  • infection in your testicles

Causes of fertility problems

Having a baby through sex

If you are a woman age 40 or under, most of the time you will get pregnant through sex within a year.

But you need to have both regular:

  • periods
  • unprotected sex

Regular unprotected sex means having sex every 2 to 3 days without using contraception.

4 out of 5 couples will get pregnant this way, within 1 year.

Trying for a baby

Having a baby if you need donor eggs or sperm

If you need donor eggs or sperm to become pregnant, your GP may be able to:

  • give you advice
  • refer you for tests or treatment

Trans or non-binary

If you are trans or non-binary, talk to your GP before starting any treatment to alter your body. If you are interested in preserving your fertility, it is important to plan for this before you start any treatment - either surgery or taking medicine.

Your GP can talk you through your options for preserving your fertility.

If you want to start a fertility treatment cycle, talk to the fertility clinic that is storing your sperm or eggs about using them.

What to expect at your GP appointment

Your GP may:

  • ask you questions
  • examine you
  • arrange tests
  • refer you for specialist tests
  • talk to you about your options

If you have a partner, attend your GP appointment together - fertility affects you both. Your GP may also examine your partner or refer them for tests.

Questions your GP might ask

Your GP will ask you questions to help find out if you need more tests or treatment.

How long you’ve been trying

If you are or your partner is a woman age 35 or under, your GP may advise you to try for longer when both of these apply to you:

  • you have been trying for less than 1 year
  • you do not have health problems that can affect fertility

How to improve your chances of getting pregnant

Problems with sex

Your GP may ask how often you have sex. Having sex every 2 to 3 days is the best way to get pregnant. They may ask if you have any difficulties during sex.

It's OK if you feel embarrassed talking about sex. But for your GP this is a normal question. They are used to talking to patients about sex.

Your medical history

Your GP may ask about your medical history, including any medical conditions or treatment you have had.

This is because some of these affect:

If you are a man and had a different GP in the past you may need to find out if you had:

  • testicles that did not "drop"
  • a serious injury to your testicles
  • cancer treatment

Conditions that affect pregnancy

Some conditions can have an impact on you or your baby, if you get pregnant. These include high blood pressure and diabetes.

Your GP may check that they are under control before referring you for any fertility treatment or tests.

Talk to your GP or your doctor who is treating the condition before you start trying for a baby. This is so your health is the best it can be and to lower potential risks.

Cervical screening

They may check that you are up to date with your cervical screening (previously known as a smear test), if you are a woman.

Cervical screening and pregnancy

Medicines you are taking

Certain medicines may affect your fertility. They can also be unsafe to take during pregnancy.

Talk to your GP about any medicines that you are taking. Tell them if you are taking any non-prescription medicines or herbal remedies.

Do not stop taking any medicines you are prescribed - unless your GP tells you to. You can put your health at risk if you stop taking medicine you need.

They may check that you are taking folic acid, if you are a woman.

Folic acid when planning a pregnancy

Periods

If you are a woman, your GP will ask about your periods.

They may ask about:

  • how often you get your periods
  • periods that are painful
  • bleeding after sex
  • bleeding between periods
  • any symptoms when you ovulate
Previous pregnancies

Your GP may ask if you and your partner have had any pregnancies or children from your current relationship or a previous relationship.

If you have been pregnant before, your GP will ask about this.

They will ask about:

Contraception (birth control) you used

Your GP will ask what type of contraception you used in the past, and when you stopped using it.

This is because certain types of contraception may take some time to stop working. For example, the contraceptive injection (medroxyprogesterone acetate).

Coming off contraception

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Your GP will ask if you have had any STIs. Some of these can affect your fertility, such as chlamydia or gonorrhoea.

Sexually transmitted infections - sexualwellbeing.ie

Lifestyle

Your GP will ask:

  • if you smoke
  • how much alcohol you drink
  • your weight and height
  • if you are under stress
  • if you take any illegal drugs, including performance-enhancing drugs

They might recommend making some changes to improve your chances of getting pregnant.

Health checks

Your GP will check your health in a number of ways.

Weight and BMI (body mass index)

Your GP may weigh you.

Being a healthy weight for your height increases your chances of becoming pregnant.

Healthy weight when trying to get pregnant

Physical examinations

Your GP may check your blood pressure, listen to your heart and lungs and do other physical health checks.

If you are a woman, they may sometimes need to do a vaginal (internal) examination. This helps your GP check your womb and ovaries.

Tests

Your GP may:

  • arrange blood tests to check if you are immune to rubella and varicella (chickenpox)
  • do some hormone tests (including thyroid tests)
  • refer you for specialist tests to check for causes of fertility problems - these may be at a regional fertility hub
  • arrange a test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) - sometimes you can do the STI test yourself

What to expect at a regional fertility hub

Page last reviewed: 18 September 2023
Next review due: 18 September 2026