African American women have lower success rates from IVF – despite yielding more eggs and embryos than white women.
Most believe that the most important number to look for is how many eggs and embryos are retrieved.
But new research shows that there may be other factors at play, especially for black patients, who have a 14 percent lower live birth rate than white women, according to data from a large clinic in Washington, DC.
Some of the discrepancy can be explained by the fact that the African American patients were more likely to be older, with a higher BMI.
However, the researchers of the study warn much of it is likely caused by biological factors that we don’t understand because black women are under-studied in medical research.
Black women responded better to treatment but had fewer pregnancies and higher risk of miscarriage (file image)
The paper, being presented today at the conference for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Denver, is an analysis of 36,000 patients that were treated at Shady Grove Fertility between 2004 and 2016.
They showed that, in this cohort (unlike the general population), African American women were less likely to suffer uterine disorders, and they responded better to the ovarian stimulation given to extract eggs.
They produced more eggs and more healthy embryos were fertilized.
Pregnancy rates, however, were significantly lower in black women – 42 percent compared to 49 percent of white women.
The rate of women who miscarried was much higher – 26 percent compared to 18 percent.
And the live birth rate was 31 percent, compared to 40 percent for white women, a relative percentage difference of 14 percent.
‘This important research points out the urgent need to better understand the factors that may contribute to these racial disparities,’ said Christos Coutifaris MD, PhD, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
‘Improved knowledge of biological and other factors contributing to successful implantation and placenta development could lead to higher success rates and save patients from the heartbreak of a failed cycle or pregnancy loss.’
It is hardly the first study to highlight the racial gap in results.
In 2016, a study by the University of Chicago of 4,000 women found black women were half as likely to conceive.
The same year, a study by Columbia University Medical Center found the same even when using donor eggs, and even when controlling for uterine disorders: black women were much less likely to get pregnant than white women.
The new research paper being presented at ASRM sought to dig deeper at the underlying causes – and what they turned up did more to confirm the racial gap in medical research than identify concrete issues to work on.