Fertility Treatment

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The complicated bundle of hope, fear, disappointment and joy can mean that fertility treatment is a very stressful experience for many. 

The stress can be exacerbated by the need to disclose a connection with the criminal justice system. Certain convictions (including offences involving harm relating to children and domestic violence) can impact access to fertility treatment. It’s important that you understand how your conviction, or that of your partner, might affect your journey, what rights you have, and how you can navigate processes.

Every licensed fertility centre in the UK is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) and they require that every centre take into account the welfare of the child prior to any treatment. 

HFEA Guidance

The HFEA publishes guidance in relation to the welfare of the child as part of their Code of Practice (Section 8).  A summary of the guidance follows.

It is a mandatory requirement that:

“A woman must not be provided with treatment services unless account has been taken of the welfare of any child who may be born as a result of the treatment (including the need of that child for supportive parenting), and of any other child who may be affected by the birth.”

What this means is that the clinic must consider the welfare of the child before beginning treatment.

The process:

The centre should have a clearly documented process that includes assessment of each patient and their partner (if applicable) before any treatment begins.

The form that you will need to complete is a standard form provided by the HFEA.  The form can be accessed from their website

Notably, the form asks questions relating to:

  • Previous convictions related to harming children
  • Previous child protection measures
  • Serious violence or discord within your family environment
  • Drug or alcohol problems

If you are disclosing to your partner for the first time, please see our page on telling people.

The guidance states:

“Those seeking treatment are entitled to a fair assessment. The centre is expected to consider the wishes of all those involved, and the assessment must be done in a non-discriminatory way. In particular, patients should not be discriminated against on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.”

  • If you have self-referred, they will need to verify your identity (for example, by seeing a passport or driving licence).
  • There is additional guidance related to surrogacy treatment

The assessment:

The assessment should take into account:

  • Past or current circumstances that may lead to any child mentioned above experiencing serious physical or psychological harm or neglect.
  • Past or current circumstances that are likely to lead to an inability to care throughout childhood for any child who may be born, or that are already seriously impairing the care of any existing child of the family.

The assessment should also take into account the wider family and social networks within which the child will be raised.

Gathering information:

The centre should seek your consent to contact other individuals, agencies and authorities if:

(a) Information provided by the patient (and their partner if they have one) suggests a risk of significant harm or neglect to any child.

(b) The patient (and their partner if they have one) has failed to provide any of the information requested.

(c) The information the patient (and their partner if they have one) has provided is inconsistent, or

(d) There is evidence of deception.

Refusing treatment:

The centre should refuse treatment if it:

(a) Concludes that any child who may be born or any existing child of the family is likely to be at risk of significant harm or neglect, or

(b) Cannot obtain enough information to conclude that there is no significant risk.

If they are intending to refuse treatment, they should give you the chance to respond to their reasons before they make their final decision

What can you do?

If you are going to need to declare information on the Welfare of the Child form, it is best to be as prepared as possible.  You may want to consider preparing the following, to submit alongside the form:

  • A disclosure letter, similar to that which you might share with a prospective employer
  • A statement on your family and wider social support network
  • Character references from individuals, agencies and authorities (for example, your GP, social worker or counsellor)

Upon receipt of the form, it is likely that the clinic will want to meet with you to ask additional questions.  It can be uncomfortable discussing a past conviction. However, the more open you are able to be about your conviction and, importantly, your rehabilitation since, the more likely you are to create a good impression on the clinic staff.  

It is worth considering whether the support of an advocacy service might be beneficial at this meeting. 

A table with examples of appropriate language use
A table showing the notification periods for the various sentence types. Prison sentence of 30 months or more (including life), Indefinite. Order for lifelong restriction, Indefinite. Admission to a hospital subject to a restriction order, Indefinite. Prison sentence of more than 6 months but less than 30 months, 10 years. Prison sentence of 6 months or less, 7 years. Admission to a hospital without a restriction order, 7 years. Community payback order with an offender supervision requirement, The length of the offender supervision requirement. Any other sentence (e.g. a fine or admonition), 5 years.
Last updated:
February 24, 2024


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