The Women's Health Council has said there needs to be more awareness of and sensitivity to the issue of infertility.

The State agency, which has published two reports on the topic, is also calling for increased information on treatments, success rates and risks.

Read the first and second reports

They deal with the effectiveness of current infertility treatments and the psychological and social difficulties that couples affected by fertility problems often encounter.

The council says that infertility affects around one-in-six couples, yet the topic is still not widely discussed and help is not easily accessible.

WHC director Geraldine Luddy said infertility is one of the great stressors in life, comparable to divorce and a death in the family.

The report on current treatments says the use of assisted reproductive technologies has increased significantly in recent years.

The number of babies born as a result of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) has more than doubled from 135 in 2000 to 301 in 2005.

However, the report says the greatest risk attached to IVF treatment is its relatively low chance of success.

Yet the financial costs of IVF are high, with one cycle of treatment costing around €4,000 and fertility drugs, if required, costing up to €3,000.

The council predicts that the demand for advice and treatment for fertility problems is likely to increase over the coming years because of the trend to delay parenthood to pursue career and financial security.

It has also called for legislation in the area, to include a licensing system for private clinics.