The test-tube baby must rank alongside the moon landings and the discovery of DNA as one of the greatest scientific achievements of the 20th century. And, iconic though it may be, this is just one of dozens of medical breakthroughs that have brought us closer than ever to overcoming what must be one of the world’s oldest miseries.

For, however far back we look into the depths of human history, we can see the misery of the infertile couple. Sanskrit hymns, Old Testament verses, the Greek epics of Homer and hieroglyph-covered papyrus found in Egypt: all speak of the loss felt by the infertile.

Unable to continue their family line, to nurture a child, and to have somebody to look after them in their old age, men and women in every country and every time have turned to priests, shamans, witch-doctors and soothsayers, desperately seeking a child.

If we can feel their anguish over the gaps of centuries, we can consider ourselves fortunate to be living in an age where we can understand infertility not as a curse or an act of divine vengeance, but as a medical problem and a solvable medical problem at that. The medical profession can’t promise children to everybody, and the route to pregnancy remains long, expensive, and emotionally fraught. But now, finally, there is a way out for many of us.

This section of the website is divided into three main sections. In the first section, we look at the causes of infertility, and at how doctors can work out what causes lie behind a couple’s inability to conceive. We’ll move on to look at the treatments available, their advantages and disadvantages, and what they entail. The third section takes a step back from the purely medical, and looks at some of the ethical, social and legal issues surrounding fertility treatments. These are questions which continue to perplex some of the wisest thinkers of our times, be they doctors, politicians, or priests, and not foolhardy enough to attempt to answer them here. Rather, we will try to sum up the different viewpoints, in the hope that you can make up your own mind on the subject.

Before you read on, a warning. is not a replacement for the advice of a qualified doctor. It can help you work out what questions to ask your doctor, and to understand what he or she tells you about your condition but that is all. Only a doctor familiar with your own medical background can give you good personal advice, so please do not make medical decisions based solely on this (or any other) website.

Techniques constantly evolve and improve, new side-effects are found, and new ideas spread from universities into hospitals. So, if your doctor tells you something that disagrees with this website, believe your doctor.