Heterosexual White Women More Likely to Seek Fertility Help, Study

First Posted: Aug 19, 2014 06:12 AM EDT

Researchers have found that heterosexual white women are twice more likely to avail medical help to get pregnant than racial or sexual minority women.

The study led by the University of Virginia analyzed data of 19,222 women aged between 21-44 years, who participated in the two most recent surveys by the National Survey of Family Growth Study. The sample was adjusted to mimic the U.S. population national surveys. They found that racial minorities and lesbians are half as likely to seek fertility treatment.  

"White, heterosexual women have apparently been the prime beneficiaries of the recent surge in medical infertility treatments," said the study's lead author, Bernadette V. Blanchfield, MA, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia.

The researchers analyzed two studies that were conducted in 2002 and 2006-2010.  The first study showed that 13 percent of white heterosexual women claimed to have availed medical assistance to get pregnant, which included advice from doctor along with more advanced treatments like fertility testing and drugs, surgery and artificial insemination. On the other hand, 7 percent of the racial minority heterosexual women and 7 percent white sexual minority women reported having used fertility treatments; and the same was availed by just 1 percent of the racial minority lesbian and bisexual women. 

The study revealed that 13 percent of racial minority heterosexual women and 6 percent of white sexual minority women received medical fertility assistance, while 7 percent of racial minority lesbian and bisexual women availed the medical assistance.

One of the major factors of lower rate of sexual minority women seeking fertility help was lack of insurance.

"These findings add to knowledge about health disparities among sexual minority women by revealing inequities in use of reproductive technology," said co-author Charlotte Patterson.

The participants were interviewed at home and some sensitive questions were asked via computer. A participant was identified as gay or bisexual in the study if she identified herself as such and if she reported being attracted to people of the same sex.

"There have been relatively few studies addressing the sexual and reproductive health of lesbian and bisexual women, but these findings reveal that sexual minority women do face inequities in fertility care. Further research on the access to and use of reproductive health care by lesbian and bisexual women is vital to understanding health disparities in the U.S.," said Blanchfield

The finding was documented in journal Health Psychology.

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