IVF in ethnic communities

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have released figures on the ethnicity of patients in the UK seeking treatment. The figures make interesting reading as they show a very low proportion from Black and Asian patients.

55,000 fertility patients were surveyed in 2018

  • 66% identified as White
  • 19% identified as either Black, Asian or mixed ethnicity (BAME).

The number of women from a BAME background undertaking fertility treatment has increased over the past five years by 20.6%. There were 4,613 women from the BAME community who accessed fertility treatment in 2013, compared to 5,563 in 2018.

There are significant differences within the BAME groups

  • Bangladeshi women represent a small group in the sample, but there was a 41.5% increase in IVF uptake since 2013
  • Chinese women have increased their uptake of fertility services by 38%
  • Pakistani women have increased their uptake by 20% compared to 2013
  • Indian women have also increased their uptake of fertility treatment by 24%

The statistics also showed the number of women from a Black background taking up IVF treatment has decreased since 2013. The decrease is only 1.5%.

The cultural and social stigmas of fertility

One mother commented, “The black community is very pro-natalist. There’s just this belief and expectation you’ll go through higher education, go through university, and get a good job. Then get married and have kids, but it isn’t so easy for every couple. If you are brave enough to say you’re having problems, it would be perceived that you’re doing something wrong!”

There are other cultural issues at play in some of the communities that have religious aspects. One Pakistani mother mentioned, “There is a negative reaction in my community for choosing the science route. We believe that if God wanted it to happen it would happen. And it has been suggested that husbands should take a second wife in order to have children. It’s a cultural mind-set that’s what we need to address.”

More information to empower women will demystify IVF

Sally Cheshire, HFEA Chair, agrees, “We know that some patients from an ethnic minority background face unique cultural and challenges. When they struggle to conceive, we recognise that there is still a stigma attached to infertility in general. But its important people know that it’s a recognised medical condition like any other. And we want all fertility patients to feel empowered to access the treatment that’s right for them, regardless of their background.”

Dr. Yacoub Khalaf, is the Medical Director of the Assisted Conception Unit at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital, London, and an HFEA member. He said, “More information to empower women will demystify IVF and make it like any other treatment. You do get cultural issues from Bangladeshi, Pakistani and African originated patients. But now you’ll see those patients coming to the clinic referred by their friends. This means they have spoken with their friends who would have had a baby through IVF. The attitude is not the same as it was years ago.”

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