Is Race Associated With Fertility?

Do race and fertility have a connection?

According to research published in the journal Fertility and Sterility, race may play an important part in the success of fertility treatments. The study, presented at the 2010 Society for Gynecological Investigation, presented data that clearly showed the connection.

The results of more than 31,000 embryo transfers were investigated for the study. All transfers took place in clinics in the United States in 2007. When the study group was broken down into race, a clear divide was revealed. About 45% of white patients conceived. That number fell to 43% for Hispanics, 38% for Asians, and 36% for African Americans. After pregnancy, live birth numbers paralleled pregnancy rates with 85% of white women giving birth if they reached the 22nd week of gestation. In Asian women that number fell to 80% and dropped again to 76% in African American women. 

Can vitamin D play a role?

Some experts believe vitamin D deficiency, more common in darker-skinned women than women with lighter skin, may come into play. When the skin comes in contact with the sun’s rays (without sunscreen protection) vitamin D is produced. Darker skin makes it harder for the body to produce vitamin D, so women are required to stay in the sun longer. Another theory is that African-American women are more prone to fibroids and fibroids can impair fertility, reduce pregnancy rates, and subsequently birth rates. 

Weight and fertility

Also addressed in the study was the impact of excess body weight on fertility treatments. Results mirrored previous studies, which showed overweight and obese women had lower success rates than women of normal weight. Weight and race may be a connection that causes some fertility issues in African American women, based on fat storage. African American women tend to store excess fat in the upper body because they are more prone to insulin resistance which causes fat to build up in the body– upper body fat storage may increase inflammation. Chronic inflammation may play a part in fertility problems.

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Source: Barbara Luke, Sc.D., M.P.H., Morton B. Brown, Ph.D., Judy E. Stern, Ph.D., Stacey A. Missmer, Sc.D., Victor Y. Fujimoto, M.D., Richard Leach, M.D. Racial and ethnic disparities in assisted reproductive technology pregnancy and live birth rates within body mass index categories. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.12.035. PubMed