Heterosexual white women in America were twice as likely as racial or sexual minority women to obtain medical help to get pregnant, according to an analysis of surveys from 2002 and 2006.

Will political involvement in health care coverage make the difference now? In some cases. Health insurance coverage was listed as a key factor for lesbian women but not minority women. Surveys taken today would likely have a dramatically different result, with everyone who wants an option covered insisting they can't do it unless it's in their health insurance plan.

But in 2002 and 2006 the political playing field regarding health insurance was more neutral.  Lead author, Bernadette V. Blanchfield, MA, a doctoral student at the University of Virginia, and co-author Charlotte Patterson, PhD, analyzed data from two studies, one conducted in 2002 and the other conducted from 2006 to 2010. In the first, 13 percent of white, heterosexual women reported having received medical assistance to get pregnant. This included getting advice from a doctor in addition to more advanced treatments such as fertility testing and drugs, surgery and artificial insemination. 7 percent of racial minority heterosexual women and 7 percent of white sexual minority women said they had received medical fertility assistance, while 1 percent of racial minority lesbian and bisexual women said they had. In the second study these numbers were 13 percent, 6 percent, 7 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

Lack of insurance was a factor in 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 Patterson.

The researchers selected data from 19,922 women, ages 21 to 44, from the two most recent surveys in the National Survey of Family Growth study. They adjusted the samples to reflect the U.S. population, a common practice for large, national surveys and the result was 66-71 percent white and 15-22 percent black, with 7-19 percent reporting another racial identity. The ranges reflect the differences between the two studies. White lesbian and bisexual women made up about 3-5 percent of the sample and black gay and bisexual women were 1 percent.

Women in the study were interviewed in their homes by trained female interviewers, with some sensitive questions being asked via computer. A participant was identified as gay or bisexual in the study if she identified herself as such and if she reported being attracted to people of the same sex.

"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. Further research on the access to and use of reproductive health care by lesbian and bisexual women is vital to understanding health disparities in the U.S.," said Blanchfield.

Published in Health Psychology.
Source: American Psychological Association