Researchers from the University of Nottingham and Royal Derby Hospitals Fertility Unit analysed data from the UK's Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority of almost 39,000 women undergoing their first cycle of IVF or ICSI.
The results, published in the journal BJOG, showed that women with White Irish, Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, other Asian and Black African ethnicity had a lower live birth rate following IVF or ICSI than women of White British ethnicity. The live birth rate for White British women was 26 percent, compared to 17 percent for White Irish women and also Black African women.
Women giving their ethnicity as 'White British' accounted for over 73 percent of the cohort, while White Irish and Black African accounted for little over 1.5 percent and 2 percent respectively.
Dr Kanna Jayaprakasan, consultant in reproductive medicine at Derby Fertility Unit and senior author of the paper said: 'The data suggests that ethnicity is a major independent factor determining the chances of IVF success.'
The authors suggest that while an individual's genetic background could be a potential determinant of egg and sperm quality, variation in lifestyle, dietary factors, socio-economic and cultural factors could also play a role in the differences they observed. Such factors could influence egg and sperm quality, access to fertility treatment and behaviour towards seeking medical care and, consequently, reproductive outcomes.
'While the reason for this association is difficult to explain, the potential factors could be the observed differences in cause of infertility, ovarian response, fertilisation rates and implantation rates, which are all independent predictors of IVF success,' Dr Jayaprakasan said.
Commenting on the study, Dr Patrick Chien, consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology and an editor of BJOG said: 'This study will be helpful for future treatment and could aid tailored treatment for women to maximise success rates. Further research is needed to understand the reasons behind the variation in treatment outcome between ethnic groups and future studies should incorporate ethnicity as a major determinant factor.'