It is commonly known, as a result of research, that Black infants are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than White infants. A new study suggests that that the disparity among those statistics is even larger when babies are conceived via reproductive technology. According to a new study, Black infants born after fertility treatments are at higher risk of death than White infants.
The study, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics, found that when children are conceived by assisted reproductive technology, neonatal mortality was more than four-fold higher among babies of Black women than those of White women.
The researchers were interested in focusing on what that disparity would look like “in a group of women that would be relatively affluent,” said Dr. Sarka Lisonkova in an interview with CNN. Lisonkova is an author of the study and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and the Children’s and Women’s Hospital of British Columbia in Vancouver.
Lisonkova set out to prove her hypothesis that the racial disparities among the babies of women using assisted reproductive technology would be smaller, “just based on the fact that the socioeconomic disparities wouldn’t be that large.” However, research disproved what she believed.
“I was really surprised, to be honest,” Lisonkova said in her interview of the overall findings. “The relative risks are quite high.”
Although both racial groups can afford the$12,000 to $17,000 IVF treatment price tag per cycle, researchers found that socioeconomic differences still appear to remain among women undergoing infertility treatments.
Lisonkova said that this fact could be driving the disparities, in addition to another factor that focuses on actual medical care.
“It seems that there are still socioeconomic disparities, even in this particular group of relatively more affluent and educated women who usually tend to go through the fertility treatment. So there could still be residual confounding by socioeconomic status. The other thing is that there might be differential access to health services, particular in this case of obstetric and maternity care services, and neonatal health services.”
Reaction to the study has been eye-opening for many. Many health care professionals said that the results are, “simply unacceptable.”
“This study should send shock waves through fertility centers, ob-gyn clinics and high risk ob-gyn clinics everywhere,” Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a San Francisco-based reproductive endocrinologist who was not involved in the new study, said in an email to CNN.
She continued, “Anyone who uses medically assisted reproduction to get pregnant should be designated as a high-risk pregnancy and get additional monitoring during pregnancy and especially after. The complications this study describes are simply unacceptable and interventions need to be put in place even before treatment is initiated. This study tells me that our work is not over. We need to work even harder to improve maternal and neonatal outcomes and even more disturbing is this trend seen in women of color seeking fertility treatment.”
The healthcare system unquestionably has a lot more work to do in protecting the lives of Black mothers and infants on all levels.