A new report has highlighted the inequalities minority ethnic women experience during fertility treatment and IVF with Black women being highlighted as struggling more than others to have a baby.
Results from the report, ‘Ethnic Diversity in Fertility Treatment 2018’, show that women of colour, in particular, Black women have less chances than others at almost every stage of assisted fertility services.
The research, led by fertility regulator Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authorisation (HFEA) has highlighted disparities in access to and outcomes of fertility treatment by ethnic groups during the period 2014-18.
The data revealed that Black patients had lower IVF birth rates; for Black patients aged 30-34, the birth rate was on average 23% compared to 30% for mixed and white patients.
“The data revealed that Black patients had lower IVF birth rates”
Even the beginning of the fertility journey throws up issues for Black patients, with us starting IVF at an average age of 36.4, compared to the national average of 34.6 for other ethnic groups. It was suggested that the high costs of treatment could be a major factor in explaining the later start for Black women.
It doesn’t end there either. The report shows that Black patients are also recorded as having the highest multiple birth rates of any ethnic groups at 14%, compared to a national average of 12%. According to the report: “Multiple births are the single biggest health risk of fertility treatment for both patients and babies. Patients having a multiple birth are at an increased risk of miscarriage, high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, caesarean section and the risk of maternal mortality is increased by 2.5 times.”
“We’re also aware of some cultural stigma that will prevent some women from seeking help at an earlier stage.”
All of this in addition to the knowledge that Black women are four times more likely to die in pregnancy and childbirth than white women. This statistic has reduced from five times more since 2018, but it is still unacceptably high.
‘Black women particularly suffer inequalities in their health outcomes’, says gynaecologist Dr Christine Ekechi, after new statistics from a fertility regulator show treatments are less successful for women from ethnic minority backgrounds.https://t.co/QAdo3iPZcB pic.twitter.com/lIphkrq4KM
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 23, 2021
The issues around fertility and Black women is extremely complex even before facing the inequalities highlighted in these statistics. Commenting on the report in an interview with Sky News, Consultant Gynaecologist, Dr Christine Ekechi, said: “We’re also aware of some cultural stigma that will prevent some women from seeking help at an earlier stage. And overall, we need to remember that Black women, particularly, unfortunately, suffer inequalities in their health outcomes throughout their life course. This is just one iteration of that.”
Sharing further thoughts about the report via her Instagram, Dr Ekechi encouraged Black women to fully take the actions that are within their control on their fertility journey.
- Black women are x3 more likely to have fibroids which impacts on our fertility. Get an early diagnosis and treatment early
- Seek advice about fertility early. Know your options including the option of egg freezing if you’re not ready to start a family now
- safeguard your reproductive health. Use barrier contraception to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and treat any infection, early
- maintain your general health. Medical conditions and being overweight can impact fertility outcomes
- Lose the stigma around fertility treatment. Fertility is just one aspect of our overall health. If you would see your doctor for chest pain, this should be no different.
“Know the facts and make the right choices for you.”
Giving hope that things are improving, Dr Ekechi said: “The great news is that for those who need help, help is available and overall outcomes are constantly improving. Know the facts and make the right choices for you.”
This report from the HFEA uncovers the scale of inequalities in the fertility and IVF space for Black people and we welcome their recommendations and encouragement to commissioners across the UK to do their bit to ensure a level playing field for everyone seeking fertility help and support.
Read the Ethnic Diversity in Fertility Treatment 2018 report here.