Fertility-related Research Needs Among Women at the Margins

Reprod Health Matters. 2015 May;23(45):30-46. doi: 10.1016/j.rhm.2015.06.006. Epub 2015 Jul 26.


Fertility-related research encompasses fertility intentions, preconception care, research amongst pregnant women, and post-partum outcomes of mothers and children. However, some women remain under-represented within this domain of study. Women frequently missing within fertility-related research include those who are already the most vulnerable to health disparities, including female sex workers, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender women, women living with HIV, and women who use drugs. Yet characterization of the needs of these women is important, given their unique fertility-related concerns, including risks and barriers to care emanating from social stigmas and discrimination. This synthesis provides an overview of fertility-related evidence, highlighting where there are clear research gaps among marginalized women and the potential implications of these data shortfalls. Overall, research among marginalized women to date has addressed pregnancy prevention and in some cases fertility intentions, but the majority of studies have focused on post-conception pregnancy safety and the well-being of the child. However, among female sex workers specifically, data on pregnancy safety and the well-being of the child are largely unavailable. Within each marginalized group, preconception care and effectiveness of conception methods are consistently understudied. Ultimately, the absence of epidemiologic, clinical and programmatic evidence limits the availability and quality of reproductive health services for all women and prevents social action to address these gaps.

Keywords: HIV; LGBT; female sex workers; fertility; people who use drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Bias
  • Female
  • Fertility*
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Homosexuality, Female
  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Research
  • Research Design*
  • Sex Work
  • Sex Workers
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Transgender Persons
  • Women's Health