Studies show that psychological support is lacking for those dealing with infertility in the UK

If you’re going through fertility treatment in the UK, you have likely been told that you qualify for counselling and psychological support. But when the time comes to actually acquiring that help, is it actually possible to access these services?

A recent study shows that the answer for half of the women in the UK is no. As a result, many women undergoing fertility treatments deal with anxietydepression, and/or suicidal thoughts alone.

The current study updates the results of a 1997 survey conducted to examine how infertility treatments have changed over the past 20 years

The study surveyed nearly 800 women who had difficulties getting pregnant (or staying pregnant). It found that despite the increased availability of IVF and offers of psychological support, distress levels remain as high as ever.

Most of the respondents included in the study reported that they felt “on average, sad, frustrated and worried almost all of the time.”

Sadly, 42% reported that they experienced suicidal ideation “at least occasionally.” These feelings were reported whether the participants were receiving treatments or not. Women for whom the treatments had been unsuccessful reported the severest levels of negative feelings.

Approximately 75% of respondents said that they were interested in acquiring counselling services (if the services were free). However, only 45% actually accessed these services. More than half of these paid for the counselling themselves.

While this is disappointing news, it does show that there has been an improvement since 1997, when only 31% of respondents received counselling.

Dr Nicola Payne, of Middlesex University, stated, “our findings suggest that involuntary childlessness and fertility treatment continue to have financial, emotional and relationship consequences for many people.”

“Despite some advances in the availability of funded treatment and psychological support, funding for treatment remains patchy across the UK and this inequity needs to be reduced. There also remains a lack of appropriate, funded psychological support.”

Gwenda Burns, chief executive of Fertility Network UK, responded to the results saying “Facing fertility problems is distressing enough, without being denied medical help because of where you live: 42% feel suicidal; 90% feel depressed; and 70% experience problems in the relationship with their partner.”

“Patients are often very vulnerable after years of trying to become parents. Fertility struggles and going through fertility treatment can put an enormous strain on both a person’s physical and mental health, but also their financial wellbeing when they are having to fund their own treatment.”

These results, while not unexpected, are certainly disheartening for anyone struggling with infertility. While some improvements have been made in the past 20 years, it is clear that there is still a long way to go.


What do you think of these results? Have you attempted to source psychological support on the NHS? If yes, what was your experience? Do you live in another part of the world and feel you have not received enough psychological support? We would love to hear from you at


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