Geographic opportunities for assisted reproduction: a study of regional variations in access to fertility treatment in England

Hum Fertil (Camb). 2023 Mar 25;1-10. doi: 10.1080/14647273.2023.2190040. Online ahead of print.


It is estimated that one in seven couples in the UK experience infertility, though just over half of those affected by it seek professional help. Previous studies pointed to potential socioeconomic barriers in accessing assisted reproduction; however, less is known about geographic accessibility to fertility treatment and the way it is associated with measures of deprivation. In this study, we used publicly available data on fertility clinics, combined with official statistics for 315 local authorities in England, to create a standardized measure of geographic accessibility to fertility services. In addition, using a negative binomial regression model, we estimated the link between socioeconomic measures at the local authority level and availability of fertility services. We found that geographic accessibility to assisted reproduction is significantly higher in the most advantaged local authorities in terms of average household income and level of deprivation. This may lead to reduced opportunities for realizing fertility aspirations among those suffering from infertility in more deprived areas. Taking into account both socioeconomic and geographic barriers to accessing fertility treatment can contribute to a better understanding of help-seeking patterns for infertility, likelihood of achieving a live birth and inform policy to equalise opportunities in access to infertility treatment.

Keywords: IVF; Infertility; assisted reproduction; deprivation; fertility treatment; geographic accessibility.