UK survey reveals challenges of fertility treatment
Joanne Delange, Progress Educational Trust
08 November 2022

[BioNews, London]

A Fertility Network UK survey of 1279 fertility patients has revealed the impact of treatment on mental health, finances, relationships and career.

The survey was conducted by the charity which provides support to be affected by infertility between April - July 2022. Results were published on 31 October 2022 to mark the start of National Fertility Awareness Week. Forty percent of patients responding to the survey reported to have experienced suicidal feelings at some point, 63 percent had paid for their own treatment (at an average cost of £13,750), 36 percent felt their career was damaged as a result and 59 percent reported some detrimental impact on their relationship with their partner.

'…[this] major new survey reveals the far-reaching trauma of infertility, painting a stark, distressing picture of what it is like to experience infertility and fertility treatment in the UK.' said Gwenda Burns, chief executive of Fertility Network UK. 'Fertility patients encounter a perfect storm: not being able to have the child you long for is emotionally devastating, but then many fertility patients face a series of other hurdles, including potentially paying financially crippling amounts of money for their necessary medical treatment, having their career damaged, not getting information from their GP, experiencing their relationships deteriorate, and being unable to access the mental support they need.'

The survey further uncovered that 75 percent of patients felt that their GP didn't provide enough information about fertility problems and treatment, with 51 percent receiving counselling. However, the majority of patients that had counselling had to pay for it themselves, with 78 percent saying that they would have liked to have had counselling if it was free. Nearly half of the patients would have liked to have attended a support group, but did not have one nearby.

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), more than 50,000 UK women undergo IVF treatment annually.

'Going through fertility treatment can be one of the most challenging times of a person's life and it's clear from this survey that the emotional, physical and financial implications of fertility, continue to affect patients today.' Julia Chain, chair of the HFEA, said in response to the report. 'Providing fertility care is not just about achieving a pregnancy. A patient's mental health should be a priority too. We are particularly concerned to see that 40 percent of respondents reported suicidal feelings and around half felt depressed. This emphasises the importance of access to counselling which UK licensed clinics are legally required to offer and make available to any patient who wants that support.'

The figures have changed little since the survey in 2016, with participants still reporting inadequate access to NHS-funded fertility treatment and mental-health services, as well as lack of workplace policy and support.

Fertility Network UK's survey was conducted with Dr Nicky Payne, associate professor of psychology at Middlesex University, London and the full report published as 'The Impact of Fertility Challenges and Treatment'.

Burns concluded: 'This is unacceptable. Infertility is a disease and is as deserving of medical help and support as any other clinical condition.'

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Reproduced from BioNews with permission, a web- and email-based source of news, information and comment on assisted reproduction and human genetics, published by Progress Educational Trust.


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