Racial disparities in fertility care evident, ongoing
Despite state insurance mandates, racial and ethnic disparities in the use of IVF and its clinical outcomes remain, according to research.
In a report, NBC wrote about Regina Townsend, now 41, who recalled that at the age of 23, she was doing everything right in the course of making a family. She had completed her education and gotten married, and it was time for her to have a child.
According to the report, she thought it’d be easy to get pregnant. In fact, she thought it was hard not to get pregnant by the way her family drilled it into her growing up. “‘Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant. You need to go to college. You need to do well,’” family members would tell her as a teenager, she said. “But there was never a conversation about (fertility).”
That’s why Townsend was so surprised to learn she wasn’t able to conceive without fertility treatments.
“At 30-something, I’m thinking everything’s going to be fine. And I’m hearing, ‘Oh, you have fibroids. You have (endometriosis). Your egg quality isn’t great.’ It’s like, wait a minute. I didn’t know that I was even supposed to be concerned with all of this,” she said.
The report mentioned that it took 10 years for her to be diagnosed with endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and completely blocked fallopian tubes, Townsend said. She and her husband then decided to start in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. They conceived son Judah, who is now 6.
Research findings revealed that its common for Black women to begin fertility treatments after going through infertility. However, white counterparts usually seek care earlier, and Black women are often in their late 30s or early 40s when they begin.
According to NBC News last month, the delay in care may be a factor in Black newborns who underwent fertility treatment having higher death rates than White newborns.
More infertility, less treatment
A 2020 study published in Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology revealed that white women are more likely to begin their first round of fertility treatment before the age of 35, while black women are more likely to begin at 41 or older.
A study published in 2007 about Fertility and Sterility reveals the length of infertility experienced by Black women before their first appointment is up to two years longer than when white women first seek care. Additionally, a 2008 study in Fertility and Sterility found that black women are twice as likely as white women to experience fertility issues.
The lead author of the 2020 and 2007 studies, Dr. David Seifer, a reproductive endocrinologist at Yale Medicine, said, "There's no simple answer" for the delay. He proposed that a number of factors could be at play, including partners' attitudes toward fertility treatment, insurance coverage, and knowledge of the "biological clock".