In a league table of accessibility to fertility services, Sheffield scored joint 12 with Liverpool, Reading and Torquay on GP referral times, with patients having to wait on average 36 weeks from being referred by their GP to receiving fertility treatment.
The average wait time in England is 40 weeks.
The study was based on data collected from 550 NHS fertility clinics, analysing GP referral times, patient ratings, number of clinics per person, and waiting times for egg and sperm donors.
The research, carried out by My Expert Midwife, has revealed that Northampton, Twickenham and Croydon were the cities with the best access to fertility services, with particularly low GP referral times and higher ratings from patients.
On the other end of the spectrum, Bradford, Hemel Hempstead and Leicester ranked the lowest with the longest waiting times and fewer staff.
The study has been published on the backdrop of recent ONS figures showing that fertility rates in England are at an all-time low, falling from 1.66 children per woman in 2019 to 1.59 in 2020. One of the main reasons cited is the postponement in childbearing with women waiting until their late 30s and early 40s before trying to conceive.
Lesley Gilchrist, registered midwife and co-founder of My Expert Midwife said: “This data shows that there is a real disparity in the provision of fertility services across the UK with a huge difference in the waiting times and the number of clinics per population across the UK.
“In the UK, most couples will not be referred to a fertility specialist unless they have been actively trying for a baby for a year, are in a same-sex relationship or have a pre-existing fertility-related condition
“For those that go on to fertility investigations and treatment, many couples find the process mentally and physically draining. They find it causes emotional turmoil, in some cases places financial pressures on themselves and puts huge pressure on their relationships, all of which can lead to increased anxiety and depression.
“We have launched our not-for-profit, no-frills ‘Trying to Conceive Kit’ to give people everything they need to understand fertility, get to know their bodies and understand and track their cycles. Whether people want to know more about fertility before trying for a baby, or they are already trying to become pregnant, the Trying to Conceive Kit can help improve understanding of the subject and offer reassurance and support.”
Further research conducted by My Expert Midwife found that Google searches for “fertility clinics” have doubled over the last 5 years and each month there are over 100,000 online searches for information around ‘trying to conceive’ and ‘getting pregnant’.
The company also surveyed people who had tried to conceive in the last five years and had taken longer than three months to get pregnant. The results showed that 65 per cent of respondents agreed that there wasn’t enough information available for couples trying to conceive.
In response to this, My Expert Midwife launched an information hub and not-for-profit conception kit to help people maximise the chance of getting pregnant naturally.