Rich White Women Get Successful Infertility Treatment — But What About the Rest of Us?

The verdict is in: race matters when it comes to infertility treatment. So does education, and so does wealth. This may not seem surprising in itself — but the scope of the situation certainly is. Consider this: If you’re white, attended college, and are wealthy, you’re fully twice as likely to obtain successful treatment for infertility. In a nutshell? Privilege is a pretty powerful multiplier.

The study reviewed data from over 2,500 women between the ages of 20 and 44. The women participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between the years 2013 and 2016 — and the data yielded were fascinating. The findings from the study were published recently in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, on June 28.

Of the women surveyed, almost 13 percent, or nearly 1 in 8, identified as infertile, with numbers skewing toward the older women in the study. It should be noted that race and ethnicity, income, and education were not correlated directly with infertility — only with the ability to seek treatment, such as IVF, successfully.

Senior study author Dr. James Dupree of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation stated in a news release, “Our study highlights important unmet infertility needs at a national level… While infertility prevalence is equal among women of varying socioeconomic, education and racial and ethnic backgrounds, our findings suggest several significant disparities among women accessing infertility care.”

The study’s lead author, Dr. Angela Kelley, serves as an obstetrician/gynecologist at Voigtlander Women’s Hospital at the University of Michigan. She said of the study’s findings, “Infertility is a medical disease and we hope to better understand existing disparities that may hinder care.”

How desperate is the situation for those who are infertile with a high school degree or less? Pretty desperate — only 33 percent of those who possessed a high school degree or less and suffered from infertility sought treatment. In contrast, more than 80 percent of those identifying as infertile in the study who also had a college degree obtained treatment.

Uninsured women struggled to obtain treatment, with only 39 percent seeking it out. Sixty-five percent who had insurance sought treatment for their infertility issues.

Also, the study showed that only one-third of women with household incomes of $25,000 or less went for infertility treatment. That’s compared to more than two-thirds of the infertile women going for treatment whose incomes (solo or household) were above $100,000.

Clearly, we have a long way to go when it comes to eradicating roadblocks for everyone needing assistance to conceive — a problem that’s already inherently deeply painful for many families. Hopefully this study will shine light on these disturbing disparities and make it clear that increased access and improved insurance coverage are paramount.

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