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Aug 20, 2014 10:03 AM EDT

Heterosexual White Women Are Leading Beneficiaries of Infertility Treatments, Study

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Heterosexual white women are twice as likely as racial or sexual minority women to seek fertility help, according to a University of Virginia study.

The researchers said that while income and lack of insurance were important factors for lower percentage of racial minority women receiving fertility assistance, lack of insurance played a crucial role in determining whether lesbians and bisexual women could obtain medical fertility help.

"White, heterosexual women have apparently been the prime beneficiaries of the recent surge in medical infertility treatments," said the study's lead author Bernadette V. Blanchfield, a doctoral student, in a press release.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data from two surveys in the in the National Survey of Family Growth study, one conducted in 2002 and the other conducted from 2006 to 2010. The two surveys totally comprised of 19,922 women, aged 21 to 44 years, with 66-71 percent white, 15-22 percent black, and 7-19 percent of another racial identity.

Overall, white lesbians and bisexual women constituted 3-5 percent of the sample and black gay and bisexual women were 1 percent. Participants were subjected to interviews at home or through computers.

In the first study, they found that 13 percent of white heterosexual women obtained medical help to get pregnant. The medical assistance included receiving advice from a doctor, fertility testing and drugs, surgery and artificial insemination. In comparison, 7 percent of racial minority heterosexual women and 7 percent of white sexual minority women reported receiving medical fertility assistance, while it was 1 percent among racial minority lesbians and bisexual women.

In the second study, these numbers were 13 percent, 6 percent, 7 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

The researchers found that lack of insurance was responsible for lower rates of sexual minority women seeking pregnancy help in both studies.

"These findings add to knowledge about health disparities among sexual minority women by revealing inequities in use of reproductive technology," said co-author Charlotte Patterson.

"There have been relatively few studies addressing the sexual and reproductive health of lesbian and bisexual women, but these findings reveal that sexual minority women do face inequities in fertility care," said Blanchfield.

The finding is published in the APA journal Health Psychology.

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