Going to the GP about fertility concerns

Consulting the GP with worries about conceiving can be difficult. For many people who will be young healthy individuals, it is the first time they have had to consult the medical profession about anything more serious than a cold or vaccination. On the whole, people understand that the GP is the person who orders the initial investigations and tests and is the gatekeeper to the fertility specialists. Many were aware of the need to try to conceive for a year (or in some areas longer) before visiting their GP and had high expectations of what the first consultation would achieve. 

While people described examples of good and bad practice on the practical medical side of primary care – misinterpreting results, failing to do the referrals – it was the emotional and psychological support either offered or not offered by GPs that stands out.

Those who described a positive experience nearly always described feeling that their fertility concerns had been taken seriously. GPs may sometimes appear dismissive when they are trying to reassure couples that they will probably get pregnant without treatment (and of course many do). But the couples we talked to had very much appreciated GPs who committed time, organised referrals swiftly, seemed interested, were realistic and listened to their concerns. Lulu, for example said, “They listened, they were caring,” and “were very supportive”.

In contrast some people felt that their GP didn’t take their worries very seriously and felt “fobbed off”. This was particularly disappointing for those who had waited over a year before going to see their GP. The short time available for GP consultations could be a problem.

Occasionally people told us that their GP had been insensitive or did not seem to understand the impact of infertility. Joanna was appalled that her GP said “Well you’ve had most of your life without children, why did you suddenly decide you want children?” She said she would have appreciated a little more understanding.

The fertility clinic usually became the main focus of care once treatment was underway but some GPs clearly maintained their interest and support for couples.

Steve and his wife went through treatment unsuccessfully before they adopted two boys. He described his GP as, “A lovely old fashioned Dr Finlay’s casebook kind of GP who was probably incredibly politically incorrect but he was actually also one of the most supportive medical staff that we came across. And he was genuine in his support and his irritation that there wasn’t more help available to us, in terms of funding, and you know why he couldn’t maybe give us drugs on prescription ….he was so lovely.”

Marine had several IVF cycles before successfully conceiving her daughter. She and her husband really appreciated the advice that their GP gave them as they embarked on treatment reminding them that there would be lots of choices ahead of them but they could stop at any time. 

Last reviewed July 2017.


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