Racial and ethnic differences in reproductive potential across the life cycle

Samantha F. Butts, David B. Seifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Objective: To review variations in specific reproductive health outcomes by race and ethnicity. A growing number of reports have explored potential gaps in the quality of reproductive health and healthcare across racial and ethnic groups. Diverse results from numerous investigations have made it challenging for practitioners to confirm the significance of these disparities. Method(s): Three specific areas of the reproductive life cycle were examined: pubertal onset, outcomes from treatment with assisted reproductive technologies (ART), and the menopausal transition. These areas were selected as they encompass a continuum of events across the reproductive life span of women. Outcomes were compared in black, white, Asian, and Hispanic women. Medline searches querying on keywords puberty, IVF, ART, menopause, menopausal symptoms, racial disparity, race, Asian, Japanese, Chinese, African American, black, Hispanic, and Latino were performed to isolate relevant publications for review. Result(s): Differences across race and ethnicity were noted in each clinical endpoint. The most notable findings included earlier puberty in blacks and Hispanics compared with whites, significantly lower live birth rates after ART in all racial and ethnic groups compared with whites, and differences in perimenopausal symptomatology and possibly timing in various racial/ethnic groups compared with whites. Additional research is needed to completely unravel the full significance and basic underpinnings of these disparities. Some of the limitations of the current state of the literature in drawing conclusions about the independent effect of race/ethnicity on reproductive disparities include small samples sizes in some studies, inconsistencies in the characterization of racial/ethnic groups, and incomplete control of potential confounding. Conclusion(s): Race and ethnicity appear to be important correlates of outcomes from the initiation of reproduction functioning through to its conclusion. The ultimate goal of identifying racial disparities in reproduction is to isolate the basic determinants of disparities and formulate strategies to improve outcomes for women at risk. The differences demonstrated in this review of the literature could represent environmental, sociocultural, and/or genetic correlates of race that influence these important milestones.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)681-690
Number of pages10
JournalFertility and sterility
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • ART outcomes
  • Asian women
  • Health disparities
  • Hispanic women
  • black women
  • menopause
  • puberty
  • race
  • racial disparities
  • reproductive aging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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