Fertility treatment is also called assisted conception. This refers to the medical treatments that can be used to help people who have difficulty getting pregnant naturally.
The term fertility treatment covers a lot of different treatments. The main ones are discussed in our information about fertility treatment for men, or fertility treatment for women.
Getting fertility treatment
Your starting point for fertility treatment will usually be your GP. They may arrange for you to have some initial tests and will refer you to an NHS doctor specialising in fertility issues. You can ask to be referred to a private doctor if you’d like.
If you want to have treatment with a partner rather than as a single person, your partner may also need to have some basic fertility tests, which the GP can arrange. There’s no charge for these tests for NHS patients.
At the fertility clinic
The fertility clinic may be called the department of reproductive medicine or the assisted conception unit. If you’ve already discussed your fertility and had any additional tests at one of your cancer check-ups, the test results will usually have been passed on to your GP. Your GP will send them to the fertility specialist.
At the clinic, the specialist will discuss your situation with you. They will answer any questions you have, arrange for some further tests and can tell you about any treatments that may be suitable for you.
Which fertility clinic?
This depends on whether you’re an NHS patient or whether you want to pay for private treatment. If you’re an NHS patient, your GP will usually suggest a referral to a particular clinic. If you’ve already had contact with a fertility unit for sperm or embryo storage, or to have your fertility checked, it may be possible for you to be referred back to the same clinic.
If you want to have private treatment you can choose which clinic to go to, but you may need to get a referral letter from your GP.
You can get details of all the assisted conception clinics in the country by contacting the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. The HFEA has a free patients’ guide with advice about how to choose a clinic and questions to ask about the treatments.
Will I have to pay for fertility treatment?
In some parts of the UK, some types of fertility treatment are free for people below a certain age. Unfortunately, many people have to pay for treatment. Eligibility varies in different parts of the country.
Your GP or fertility doctor should be able to let you know whether you’re able to have fertility treatment on the NHS. Although there are national guidelines about providing fertility treatment, there are still local variations. It’s best to check with the clinic you’ve been referred to about this.
If you’re not eligible for NHS treatment or are worried that you may have to wait a long time for treatment in your area, you might consider private treatment. There are no standard charges for private treatment, so you’ll need to contact clinics directly to find out how much they charge.
Clinics should be able to give you information about treatments, including the success rates and costs. You can then make an appointment to discuss the treatment more fully.
Tests for fertility treatment
If you decide to have fertility treatment, you’ll have the same tests mentioned on pages to test fertility.
If you have a partner, they’ll also need to have some tests.
Fertility treatment for people who are single or in a gay or lesbian relationship
If you’re a woman who’s single or in a lesbian relationship
You aren’t automatically excluded from treatment if you’re a woman who’s single or in a lesbian relationship. However, it may affect your eligibility for free NHS treatment.
Staff in fertility clinics will need to know if you’re a woman who’s single or in a lesbian relationship. This is so they can advise you about particular legal aspects that apply to becoming a parent.
If you’re a man who’s single or in a gay relationship
There are currently no fertility treatments available in the UK for single men and gay couples.
The only way for gay couples to become legal parents is to adopt a child or, if they’re in a civil partnership, to use a surrogate and then apply for a Parental Order.
Advice and support if you’re single or in a gay or lesbian relationship
If you’re single or in a gay or lesbian relationship, you can ask your GP about the issues around fertility treatment. You can also contact one of the national support groups for confidential advice, such as Infertility Network UK or Pink Parents.