What is infertility?

Infertility is when a couple cannot conceive despite having regular unprotected sex.

There are two types of fertility:

  • Primary Infertility: This is where someone is unable to conceive their first child.
  • Secondary Infertility: This where someone has previously had a pregnancy, but they are struggling to conceive again.

Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving. A couple will only be diagnosed as being infertile if they have not managed to have a baby after one year of trying.

If you have been trying to conceive without success for longer than a year, it might be a good idea to speak to your GP and see if you can get some help, both emotional and practical.

Causes and Risk Factors

The reasons for infertility vary from person to person. The most common causes of infertility can be found on the NHS website.

There are also many different risk factors that can affect fertility in both men and women. These include external factors, lifestyle choices and environmental causes. Some of these have been detailed below (please note this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Age: the older we get, the less fertile we become.
  • Weight: research has found that there are links between weight and infertility. Individuals who are at risk include those who are obese, and those who are underweight (NICD, 2017).
  • Smoking and drinking alcohol: if you would like support for reducing or stopping consumption of tobacco or alcohol, please see our dedicated drug, alcohol and tobacco page.
  • Stress: you can find information on ways to reduce stress in our coping with stress article.
  • Environmental factors: exposure to certain pesticides, solvents and metals has been shown to affect fertility, particularly in men.
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections

Impact on mental health

Infertility can be a distressing experience, and can have an emotional toll on several aspects of your life. You may find it difficult to deal with your emotions, or you may find that relatives, friends and colleagues may not be understanding or aware of the grief you may be experiencing.

For those who are undergoing fertility treatment, making several intense medical decisions and the uncertainty that infertility brings can create an emotional upheaval. Not everyone will appreciate that undergoing fertility treatments is stressful, offering hope and anxiety in equal measure. It is important to ensure that you are taking care of yourself and getting the support that you need.

Emotional support

At Keeping Well BLMK, we understand how issues with fertility can impact your mental health. We are here to support you by providing a safe and confidential space to talk about what is going on for you.

We can also help think with you about how you might want to access support and make onward referrals if needed.

To get in touch, message us on our live chat or give us a call on 01908 724 227. Our opening hours are:

  • Monday 9am to 5pm
  • Tuesday 8am to 8pm
  • Wednesday 8am to 8pm
  • Thursday 8am to 8pm
  • Friday 9am to 5pm

You can also request a call back or submit a self-referral form.

The pages below have some further information on support which is available:


Updated on: 14/04/2022