Research presented at last week's annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) suggests that many couples may begin treatment for perceived fertility problems too soon.
Fertility expert Dr David Dunson and his colleagues from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, US, say that despite the definition of infertility being 'failure to get pregnant after a year of trying', most healthy couples who failed to conceive in this time will successfully do so within a second year of trying.
Dr Dunson's team studied the records of 782 couples from seven cities across Europe. They found that eight per cent of 19 to 26 year olds did not conceive during the first year of trying. Even if both partners were in their late thirties, they would have an 82 per cent chance of conceiving naturally within a year. In the second year, over half of all those who had failed to conceive became pregnant. Even where the male partner was over 40, only sixteen per cent of the couples failed to get pregnant in two years. Dunson says that these figures suggest that the one-year definition of infertility is an 'arbitrary cut-off' that should be reconsidered.
Furthermore, Dunson advised that couples under thirty should not 'rush' into fertility treatments, especially because many treatments have associated health risks and are expensive. But he added that couples where both partners are over 30 should seek medical assistance if they did not conceive during one year, as should those who suspected factors other than age were causing them not to conceive.