While a woman can get basic infertility exams and ovulation-induction treatments from her regular gynecologist, she typically needs to see a specialist for more advanced fertility procedures, such as in vitro fertilization. However, a new study found that almost 25 million women of reproductive age in the U.S. don’t live near fertility clinics that provide important services for many hoping to get pregnant.
Published in the journal Fertility & Serility, the study discovered that nearly 40 percent of reproductive-age women across the country either have limited or no access to assisted-reproductive-technology (ART) clinics nearby. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and University of Michigan used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pinpoint 510 ART clinics in the U.S., as well as population data from the 2010 census.
They found that 18.2 million women between the ages of 20 and 49 live in metropolitan areas that have no ART clinics. Furthermore, an additional 6.8 million women live in areas that only have one ART clinic and therefore don’t have a choice of provider. However, the remaining 38.1 million — or 60 percent of the population — live in regions with multiple ART clinics, which gives them a choice of providers.
“Infertility is by itself a difficult issue for couples to face emotionally and financially,” study co-author Dr. John Harris, of Pitt’s School of Medicine, said in a statement. “Based on geography, many couples who are trying to start families may have only one clinic nearby where they seek these services, and many women with infertility do not have any nearby access to these services at all, adding additional anxiety during an already stressful time of life.”
The study authors noted that it’s not yet known how far patients would be willing to travel for fertility services, or how much time and money they’d be willing to invest in reproductive services. Further research is needed to see how barriers to fertility services interact with race, socioeconomic status, age, and other demographic disparities.