Womens Health

Asian Americans And IVF

A new study suggests that Asian-American women have less success than white women in having a healthy baby after in vitro fertilization (IVF). Stanford University researchers found that women of Asian descent undergoing IVF treatment at the university's fertility clinic were far less likely to have a good obstetric outcome. Only 31% percent had a baby compared to 48% of the white women undergoing the fertility treatment.

The study was a small one and involved a total of 180 women. Nonetheless, the study findings, which were reported in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, add weight to the body of evidence showing a gap in the rates of successful pregnancy outcomes after IVF when comparing Asian and African-American women with their Caucasian counterparts. The study does not, however, shed light as to why such a large gap remains between these groups and their success rates.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Elizabeth S. Langen believes that the study does offer up a certain amount of evidence to back up some of the previous findings that have been offered by the experts. For example, researchers did not find any difference in quality among the embryos created through IVF, and Asian-American women displayed similar responses to the ovarian stimulation medications that are used to stimulate egg production. Doctors were able to harvest 15-16 eggs from women across the spectrum, no matter their race.

Other Factors

As a result, Langen and her colleagues were able to conclude that, "factors other than embryo development influence IVF outcome in Asian women."

The Stanford study involved 180 participants who had undergone one IVF cycle making use of their own eggs in either 2005 or 2006. 62% of the women were white and 38% were Asian.

Langen's team found no differences between the two groups during the first stage of treatment. Comparable responses occurred in regard to ovarian stimulation, successful fertilization rates, and the average number of embryos implanted (2). But the Asian women were not as likely to achieve pregnancy or have a baby. 43% of the Asian-American women became pregnant in comparison with 59% of the white women.

No Differences

While weight is often a causal factor in IVF failure, and Asian women tend to be thinner than white women, only three of the Asian women were underweight and none of them were obese. Asian women have a higher rate of endometriosis, in which the tissue that lines the uterus migrates and grows outside of the uterus on other pelvic organs. This condition often affects the way the uterus and ovaries function. But here too, Langen's team found no differences in the participants' histories for endometriosis diagnosis, no matter their race.

The team concludes that researchers need to look into lifestyle differences, for instance diet, when looking for the reason IVF failures are occurring in Asian-American women. 

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