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IVF less successful for ethnic minorities, study finds

11 November 2013
Appeared in BioNews 730

The outcome of fertility treatment may be influenced by the ethnicity of the mother, a UK study has found. Women from ethnic minorities had significantly lower live birth rates after IVF compared to white European women (35 percent versus 44 percent). The results echo those from similar studies from the USA.

'Our data indicates that live birth rates, clinical pregnancy rates and implantation rates following fertility treatment, particularly IVF, are significantly lower in ethnic women when compared to white Europeans', said Dr Walid Maalouf from Nottingham University's Research and Treatment Unit in Reproduction (NURTURE), the lead author on the paper.

The team from NURTURE followed 1,517 women who underwent their first cycle of fertility treatment, using ICSI or conventional IVF, between 2006 and 2011. They collected data on pregnancy rates and live births, as well as information on other factors like smoking that are known to be associated with pregnancy outcomes.

Women from ethnic minorities were slightly more likely to be overweight, and had infertility problems for longer before seeking treatment compared with white women. However, they also smoked less and were slightly younger, which should have increased their chances of success. Instead, their treatment outcomes were significantly worse from the implantation stage onwards.

'The reason for the reduced implantation rates and subsequent reduced outcomes in the ethnic minority group is still unclear', said Dr Maalouf. 'Further research into genetic background as a potential determinant of IVF outcome, as well as the influencing effects of lifestyle and cultural factors on reproductive outcomes, is needed'.

The findings are in line with studies from the USA, which have found that women from African- or Asian-American minorities have lower rates of IVF success.

'Evidence of more realistic success rates of women undergoing fertility treatment could be used to encourage women from ethnic backgrounds to seek treatment earlier and improve the likelihood of a positive pregnancy outcome', said Dr John Thorp, editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology which published the paper.

Effect of ethnicity on live birth rates after in vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection treatment
BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology |  6 November 2013
Fertility treatment outcomes can be significantly influenced by mother’s ethnicity
BJOG Journal News |  6 November 2013
IVF success affected by ethnicity, study suggests
BBC News |  6 November 2013
IVF success higher among white women
The Australian |  7 November 2013
New study reveals fertility treatment success rates are significantly influenced by mother's ethnicity
University of Nottingham (press release) |  6 November 2013
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Support While Trying To Conceive ( - 12/11/2013)
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