Infertility affects about 10 per cent of couples. If you are having problems getting pregnant, your doctor will put you forward for further investigation.
The main hospital-based investigations, which will be employed to try and identify the reason for your infertility, will involve an assessment of the cervical mucus, the fallopian tubes and the ovaries.
This is what they consist of:
An arrangement is made for a sample of cervical mucus to be taken and examined soon after intercourse. The sperm within the mucus are examined to see if they are alive and swimming normally. This identifies the couples in whom 'hostile' cervical mucus is a problem, causing infertility.
Ultrasound scan of the pelvis
This shows the ovaries and the outline of the uterus (womb) and fallopian tubes. It can identify conditions that can affect infertility such as polycystic ovaries, fibroids and some cases of endometriosis.
This is an x-ray investigation that takes about 30 minutes. A tube is inserted into the cervix, and an x-ray-opaque liquid is introduced through the tube. X-ray pictures are taken as the liquid passes up through the uterus and flows along the fallopian tubes. This can identify any blockages.
This is sometimes necessary to examine the pelvic organs, but usually requires a general anaesthetic. A small telescope is introduced through the abdominal wall. This can be combined with a dye test, where dye is introduced through the cervix and its passage along the fallopian tubes is observed to check for fertility problems.