Black babies are about two times more likely to die before their first birthday than white babies.
But according to a new study, the disparity is even larger when babies are conceived through in vitro fertilization or other forms of fertility treatments or assisted reproductive technology, CNN reports.
Research published on Wednesday (October 19) by the journal Pediatrics revealed that babies conceived by Black mothers who used these types of fertility treatments are four times more likely to die than those conceived by white mothers.
Authors of the study, including Dr. Sarka Lisonkova, said they were "surprised" that the disparity in infant mortality was even wider among a group of "relatively affluent women" who seemingly had the socioeconomic means to afford and have assess to fertility treatments, per CNN. IVF, the most common type of assisted reproductive technology, can cost up to $17,000 per cycle, the National Conference of State Legislatures reports.
“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 treatments,” Lisonkova said. “So there could still be residual confounding by socioeconomic status. The other thing is that there might be differential access to health services, particularly in this case of obstetric and maternity care services“
The study cites data from all U.S. births, excluding twins, from 2016 to 2017. Of the more than 7.5 million births, 93,000 children were conceived via medically assisted reproduction, such as IVF.
The data "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, told CNN.
“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,” Eyvazzadeh said. “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.”, and neonatal health services.”
Despite the alarming disparity, Lisonkova said she doesn't want the study to discourage Black mothers from pursuing fertility treatments. She suggests people have a childbirth plan in place and continuously consult and follow up with their doctors.
“Do not hesitate if you feel uncomfortable,” Lisonkova said, “or if you feel something is not going right, consult with your physician.”