Why Women of Color are Less Likely to Get Pregnant with Infertility Treatment

Black, Asian, and Hispanic women are more likely to be infertile, but less likely to seek treatment and less successful with IVF once they get treatment. Why are women of color less likely to get pregnant with infertility treatment? Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Dr. Torie Comeaux Plowden, a reproductive endocrinologist and researcher in the area of disparity with success rates for minorities and access to care.

Hit the Highlights
  • Michelle Obama announced that both her daughters were conceived through IVF.
  • One of the greatest myths is that infertility is a white woman’s issues-specifically white women of a certain age with means. And IVF is a white woman’s solution. Is infertility more likely to be seen in Caucasian women?
  • What are the rates of infertility in different races for women?
  • What are the rates of infertility in different races for men?
  • Where does this myth come from?
  • African American women, who have higher rates of uterine fibroids, are almost twice as likely as white women to suffer from infertility.
  • Recent study found that reproductive age Black women were 80% more likely to report infertility but were 20% less likely to receive infertility services when compared to Caucasian women.
  • African American women wait twice as long as white women to see a doctor for infertility and are less likely to seek treatment.
  • Married black women (ages 25-44) are nearly twice as likely to have infertility problems than married white women, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Eight percent of black women and 8 percent of Latinas between the ages 25 and 44 have used fertility treatments, compared to 15 percent of white women. No data was available for Asian women in this category.
  • Why are African American women more likely to be infertile: uterine fibroids, weight (but even compared to white obese women their pregnancy rates were lower), tubal issues (African-American women were 6 times more likely and Hispanic women were 2 times more likely to have chlamydia, which is a risk factor for tubal disease).
  • Are black men more likely to be infertile?
  • Why are blacks more likely to not seek treatment: cost, cultural pressure, myths.
  • Treatment is not as successful in women of color. What are the success rates for white, blacks, Hispanics, Asians? What are the live birth rate statistics?
  • Multiple studies, including large database studies have noted lower clinical pregnancy rates and lower live birth rates among Black, Asian and Hispanic women compared to Caucasian women. Interestingly, after adjusting for various demographic factors including age, causes of infertility, duration of infertility and obesity, these disparities were still present.
  • What factor cause infertility treatment to be less successful in women of color? Access to care, later entry into care, obesity, chronic diseases, different responses to treatment.
  • Many of the factors we describe for black women don’t hold true for Asian women and yet they still have lower success with IVF. Why?
  • Why are black, Hispanic and Asian women entering care at a later age? Access to care; cultural pressures; knowledge of the impact of age, weight and STDs on fertility are less in communities of color; bias and stereotyping of primary care doctors and gynecologists.
  • Interesting studies have found that the discrepancies in success rate with IVF for black and Asian women don’t hold true for frozen embryo transfer.
  • Impact of racism on reproductive health. This study did not focus on reproductive health. It did, however, examine over 300 studies and explored associations between racism and mental health as well as racism and physical health. It concluded that racism is significantly related to poorer health.
  • Law professor Jim Hawkins’s 2012 study of fertility-clinic advertising found that 97 percent of clinics included photographs of white babies on their website, and 62 percent featured only photographs of white babies. Hawkins speculated that this skewed advertising risked driving away minority patients.

Related Resources:

  • Fertility for Colored Girls – a nonprofit support network that recently expanded from Chicago to D.C., Virginia, and Atlanta
  • Broken Brown Egg – a resource style blog devoted to infertility awareness for women of color
  • Black Mamas Matter, a nonprofit advocating for black maternal health, rights, and justice

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Image credit: Mammi-Ama Ofori