An estimated 200,000 couples in the West Midlands face problems in starting their own family - and waits of up to four years for NHS-funded fertility treatment.
The region has the second highest infertility rate in Britain, after London and the North- west where it is thought 250,000 couples in each area require help conceiving.
The disparity between NHS and private waiting times is highlighted in a guide published today by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority designed to allow patients, GPs and primary care trusts to compare services.
Of the West Midlands' eight licensed fertility clinics, Midland Fertility Services in Aldridge, Walsall, recorded the longest waits. Couples seeking NHS-funded IVF treatment can wait between two and four years, depending on the primary care trust, while private patients are seen in two weeks.
For intrauterine insemination (IUI) or donor insemination (DI), the NHS time ranges from two weeks to four years, but just a fortnight for fee- paying couples.
At the Shropshire and Mid Wales Fertility Centre, in Shrewsbury, couples must wait a year for NHS-funded IVF or IUI/DI treatment, while private patients may be seen immediately.
And at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Coventry, NHS patients face a 20- week wait for IVF compared with eight weeks for private treatment.
The HFEA Guide to Infertility 2005/06 states that 3,200 IVF cycles were carried out in the region in 2002/03, with 2,720 patients having either IVF or IUI/ DI treatment.
In February last year the then Health Secretary John Reid called for all PCTs to offer women under 40 at least one cycle of IVF, after the National Institute for Clinical Excellence recommended couples should have up to three NHS-funded cycles.
Suzi Leather, HFEA chairman, said yesterday: "With one in seven people having some difficulty conceiving, there is a need for independent information about infertility, its causes and treatment options.
"If we think about how much time we spend researching a summer holiday which might cost £400, how much more agonising is there over a course of IVF which could cost £4,000 or more?"
An Infertility Network UK spokeswoman said: "It has to be acknowledged that many patients are still unable to access the NHS treatment they deserve and have no option but to pay."