Remember, it is always best to be honest when you answer your doctor as this will make identifying any problems easier and may save you from greater embarrassment later on.
What Fertility Questions Could Your Doctor Ask You Both?
QUESTION: How long have you been trying to conceive for?
This is usually the first fertility question your GP will ask you and they do this to begin establishing a background to your situation. If you have been trying for more than 12 months, this normally results in a referral to a specialist, but they will keep asking more questions to build an idea of what might be wrong. If you would like to know more about the timings doctors consider when they see you for conception advice, read the section When to Seek Fertility Help.
QUESTION: How often are you having sex, and is there any difficulty with this?
Sometimes people ask their doctor about difficulties conceiving when the real issue they want to discuss is problems having sex. If this is the case with you, don’t be embarrassed to bring up any bedroom problems you are having with your doctor as they often see people who are having difficulties in this area and can provide advice to help you.
QUESTION: Have you been pregnant before or have you made someone else pregnant?
The reason they ask this is to try and narrow down which one of you may have a problem (if you have already been pregnant or made someone else pregnant, it is less likely the problem is with you).
QUESTION: How is the difficulty of conceiving affecting your lives?
Stress can be a factor in getting pregnant and many couples conceive once they become more relaxed. Stress can be caused by your job, social pressures, significant life events and simply by the worry of you or your partner not becoming pregnant. I’m sure you’ll have heard anecdotal stories of people who had been trying to get pregnant for years and when they give up trying for a baby, they conceived within a few months.
QUESTION: Have you previously had any sexually transmitted diseases?
Sexually transmitted diseases (or STDs for short, also known as sexually transmitted infections) can cause you problems getting pregnant even if they have been treated. If one or both of you have previously had an STD, you may want to check out the section STIs and Infertility.
QUESTION: Do you have any medical conditions?
Certain medical conditions can reduce your fertility and your doctor is seeing if you suffer from one. Examples of the more common conditions are: diabetes, fibroids, varicoceles, thyroid problems, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, being over or underweight, painful or irregular periods.
QUESTION: Do you take any regular medication or over the counter tablets from your pharmacy?
Some medications can interfere with your fertility and your doctor is asking you both this fertility question to see if you are taking any that may be causing problems with you conceiving. If you are taking medicines that could affect your fertility, your doctor may recommend you reduce the dose or switch to an alternative medicine while you are trying to conceive. IMPORTANT: Do not stop taking any medicine prescribed to you by your doctor without consulting with them first. For more information on this, read Medication and Fertility.
QUESTION: Do you take any recreational drugs?
Like medication, some recreational drugs can reduce your chances of conceiving a child. Studies indicate that marijuana, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy can not only reduce your fertility, but may also damage the developing foetus. In addition, anabolic steroids are the male equivalent of taking the contraceptive pill. Of all the fertility questions doctors ask, this is the one most people lie about. Don’t. If you take any types of recreational drugs, it is always best to be honest with your doctor about this – they will not report you to the police unless they think your life is in danger.
QUESTION: Do you smoke?
Smoking, or even living or working closely with someone else who smokes (passive smoking), can make it take longer to conceive than a non-smoker. Also smokers are almost twice as likely to have infertility problems than non-smokers.
QUESTION: Do you drink alcohol?
Studies show heavy drinking can seriously reduce a man’s healthy sperm and can cause hormone imbalances in women. I’m not saying you should quit completely, but drink sensibly while you are trying to conceive and the woman should stop drinking completely if she suspects she is pregnant.
QUESTION: Lifestyle questions about diet, exercise, stress and weight etc.
Bad habits in men’s and women’s lifestyles can delay how long it takes them to get pregnant. By knowing what your lifestyle is like, your doctor can give you advice on how you can change your ways and improve your chances of becoming pregnant.
Fertility Questions Asked Specifically to The Man
QUESTION: Have you had any previous injury or operations to the testicles or groin?
Old injuries and operations can leave permanent damage like blocked sperm ducts that reduce a man’s sperm count and therefore ability to father children. You can read more about this in Ejaculatory Duct Obstruction.
QUESTION: Lifestyle questions about exercise, tight underwear, etc.
Moderate exercise is good for sperm production, but excessive exercise can reduce a man’s fertility. Likewise, wearing tight underwear or trousers can reduce fertility by overheating the testicles or reducing blood flow to them. To read more about how this could impact you, see Lifestyle and Male Fertility.
Fertility Questions Asked Specifically to The Woman
QUESTION: Is your cycle regular?
Your doctor is asking this fertility question to find out if you have irregular periods which may be a sign of a problem with ovulation. Common causes of irregular cycles which may affect fertility are Anovulation and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
QUESTION: Do you get any bleeding between your periods or after sex?
An answer of yes to this fertility question could be a sign of an infection or a problem with the womb or cervix. Doctors will need to do some tests to determine the cause of this.
QUESTION: Have you had any previous gynaecological problems or operations?
Operations or other problems can result in internal scarring which may affect your ability to conceive. If you have had an operation to the pelvis in the past, you may want to read more about how it could have affected you in the section Infertility After Surgery in Women.
QUESTION: Are you up to date with your cervical smear and have you ever had an abnormal smear result?
Cervical smears check for abnormal cells on your cervix (the entrance to the womb from the vagina), which if left untreated, could lead to cervical cancer in the future and may be causing fertility issues. You can’t have a smear test done whilst pregnant, so if you are due a smear test it is best to do this before conceiving. If you have had abnormal smear tests in the past and you are due (or overdue) another smear, then it is really important to get this done as early detection increases the success of treatment!
QUESTION: Have you ever used contraception? If so, what types and when did you stop?
After stopping some types of contraception it can take a bit of time for your normal cycle to return, and thus also your fertility. For example, it can take up to three months to become fertile again after coming off the pill. contraceptive injections can take up to a year to work their way out of your body, and contraceptive implants or the coil will need to be taken out by a trained doctor.
QUESTION: Do you know if you have been vaccinated against rubella?
Catching rubella when pregnant can have serious complications for the unborn baby and it is not possible for you to be vaccinated against the disease whilst pregnant. It is therefore important to ensure that you are protected against this before becoming pregnant by having the vaccination at least one month before you start trying for a baby.
QUESTION: Are you taking any supplements?
Folic acid and vitamin D supplements are recommended during the early stages of pregnancy in order to help with the baby’s growth and development. It is recommended that you start taking these supplements several months before you start trying to conceive in order to ensure that you have adequate stores in the body.
QUESTION: Why do you think you think you are not getting pregnant?
Sometimes psychological issues (an internal mental conflict) can affect you physically and many medical professionals believe it may be a contributing factor to delays in getting pregnant. You may not even be aware you have one, but it is there at a subconscious level potentially influencing your chances of conceiving.
Common responses I have been told when asking this question include:
- I have a lot of stress in my life at the moment
- I had a termination when I was young and now I’m being punished for it
- I’ve been told I have low egg reserves / geriatric eggs / polycystic ovaries
- I have low self-esteem
At best, these kinds of thoughts are not helpful to someone trying to get pregnant and may even be a contributing factor to the delay in getting pregnant. Your doctor will be able to advise you about counselling you can receive to help you with these.
Is There Anything Else I Should Know About a Fertility Visit to The Doctor?
Not sure about how long you should be trying to get pregnant before you make an appointment to see your doctor for help? It will depend on your circumstances and previous medical history. To understand what the criteria are that your doctor will look at, check out the page: When to Seek Fertility Help from Your Doctor
Some people can be embarrassed about visiting their doctor for conception advice. If you know what the process is, it can help to prepare you. For more information about what will happen when you visit your doctor, check out the section: What to Expect When Seeing Your Doctor About Problems Conceiving
Does it seem medical professions are using a different language when they are talking to you? Find out what they are talking about in the section: Jargon Buster – Your Guide to Common Fertility Terminology