African-American women are just as likely to get pregnant and bear a healthy child through in-vitro fertilization (IVF) as are white women, new research in the journal Fertility and Sterility shows.
It has been difficult to study ethnic differences in IVF outcome, note Dr. Molina B. Dayal and colleagues from George Washington Medical Faculty Associates in Washington, DC, because African Americans represent a small fraction of the 100,000 couples who undergo the procedure every year. Some studies have found black women are less likely than whites to get pregnant and have a child via IVF, they add, but others have not.
Washington, DC, has a large middle-class black population, Dayal and her team point out, which made it possible for them to assess the influence of ethnicity on IVF outcome while controlling for socioeconomic factors. “We’re essentially uniquely poised to answer this question,” Dayal noted in an interview with Reuters Health.
She and her colleagues looked at 251 first-round IVF cycles done at their center between 2004 and 2005. Of these IVF cycles, 71 involved African Americans, while the rest involved white women. The socioeconomic profile of the black women and the white women was essentially the same.
The researchers found no difference between black and white patients in the likelihood that an embryo would implant or that they would give birth to a live infant, while the rates of conception and confirmed pregnancy (evidence of fetal heart beat on ultrasound) were also the same in blacks and whites. However, there was an increased - but not statistically significant - risk of miscarriage among black women, Dayal pointed out, which could have been related to the fact that black women were more likely to have uterine fibroid tumors that can affect fertility.
African American women were also more likely to have infertility related to tubal problems, while white women more often had “unexplained fertility,” the researchers found. The average body mass index among the black women was also higher than among the white women.
Nevertheless, these differences didn’t seem to have a significant effect on pregnancy outcome. “At least when it comes to undergoing in vitro fertilization, there doesn’t seem to be really any difference whatsoever,” Dayal said. “If African Americans were readily accessing IVF treatment, then they should have similar outcomes.”
SOURCE: Fertility and Sterility, June 2009.