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WEDNESDAY, March 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly 40 percent of reproductive-age women in the United States have little or no access to infertility clinics, according to a new study.

Advanced infertility treatments -- such as in vitro fertilization -- are only available in assisted reproductive technology (ART) clinics, the study authors noted.

"Infertility is by itself a difficult issue for couples to face emotionally and financially," said study author Dr. John Harris, of the University of Pittsburgh. He is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Pitt's School of Medicine.

"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," Harris explained in a university news release.

Using federal government data, the researchers pinpointed the locations of 510 ART clinics nationwide. Just over 18 million women aged 20 to 49 -- about 29 percent of that age group -- live in urban areas with no ART clinics, the researchers found.

Another 6.8 million women in that age group (nearly 11 percent) live in areas with only one ART clinic, meaning they can't choose their infertility treatment provider.

Further research is needed to answer questions such as how far patients are willing to travel for infertility treatments; how much time and money patients are willing to give for such services; and how these factors interact with other issues such as race, socioeconomic status and age, the researchers said.

The study was published March 14 in the journal Fertility & Sterility.

SOURCE: University of Pittsburgh, news release, March 14, 2017

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