White examines likelihood of voluntary sterilization according to race/ethnicity and insurance status

Studies have found that women in low-income and racial/ethnic minority groups are more likely to undergo female sterilization and less likely to rely on a male partner’s vasectomy to prevent pregnancy compared with white women and women in higher income groups. However, low-income and minority women often report difficulties obtaining female sterilization after their pregnancy.

Kari White, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health Care Organization and Policy, analyzed this apparent contradiction using the 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, which collected information on pregnancy, family life, contraceptive use and infertility from a national sample of 22,682 women and men ages 15 to 44. In her study, she used multivariable-adjusted logistic and Cox regression models to examine women’s chances of getting a postpartum or interval sterilization in the 24 months following delivery.

Dr. White found that a woman’s use of sterilization after delivery varied by both her race/ethnicity and health insurance status. According to the research, African-Americans and Latinas who had Medicaid were less likely than whites with Medicaid to undergo female sterilization. White women with private insurance were more likely to report their partner had a vasectomy than privately insured African-American and Latina women. Women with Medicaid in all racial/ethnic groups were less likely to rely on vasectomy as a form of permanent birth control.

Overall, the results suggest that low-income minority women may face barriers to obtaining sterilization, both immediately postpartum and in the months following their delivery. This could expose women to future unintended pregnancies.

To read “Reconsidering Racial/Ethnic Differences in Sterilization in the United States,” published in a recent issue of Contraception, click here.