Infertility sees no race, ethnicity, social, or economic status. It affects 1 in 8 people trying to conceive. Women and infertility is now gaining national attention more than ever.
When I was first diagnosed with infertility, I never even heard that word before. I had no idea what that would mean for my husband and I. Undergoing IVF treatments (in vitro fertilization) more than 10 years ago was a different story – many people didn’t talk about it publicly.
Infertility does not discriminate. But I’ve learned that there is disparity in how non White women are supported, treated, and have access to care regarding fertility care.
A woman’s reproductive health is important no matter her background. It is a basic human right to be able to create a family. Let’s explore how infertility affects different groups of women.
Black women are TWICE as likely to experience infertility as white women. Studies show that only 8% of Black women seek medical help to get pregnant, compared to 15% of white women. Factors of lack of representation and cultural pressures play into this.
The voice of the African American community on infertility was missing. Women of color were not talking about infertility both publicly or online, especially Black women. That is changing now. You now hear of Black celebrities such as, Michelle Obama, Tyra Banks, Tia Mowry, and Gabrielle Union talk about their fertility struggles.
According to an article Black women deal with a lack or awareness and services that can help them build their family. Since IVF treatments are expensive, the perception that only people of higher socioeconomic standing can pursue them is a factor that hinders them from receiving services.
Stereotypes exist regarding black women such as, they are super fertile, hyper sensual, and are baby making machines. According to Stacey Edwards-Dunn, the founder of Fertility of Colored Girls – a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help educate black women about their options and to raise money to help pay for treatments – she stated that “one of the biggest misconceptions is that infertility is a white woman’s problem.”
Like I stated earlier, infertility affects all groups of women. It is important to bring awareness to this and break that stigma to remain silent about it so more women can seek the needed help to conceive and grow their family.
Studies have consistently shown that Asian couples have a lower rate of pregnancy and live birth than Caucasian couples. Even more astounding is that a study performed in 2007 at the University of San Francisco showed that the Asian population does poorly with IVF, showing significantly lower pregnancy rates compared to similar Caucasian patients.
In an eye-opening article to me, Dr. Amr Azim, a reproductive endocrinologist and a fertility specialist, discusses the infertility factors that affect Asian women. Some of them include that Asian women produce fewer eggs, fertility gynecological disorders – like PCOS or endometriosis – affect more Asian women, and environmental factors due to exposure to mercury and being vitamin D deficient. I had no idea these affected Asian women more.
Another fascinating point from the studies I read is that Asian-American women appeared to struggle with their infertility for much longer periods of time before seeking professional medical help. A woman’s age greatly impacts the outcome of ART (assisted reproductive technique), therefore it is crucial to seek medical help earlier rather than later.
From a cultural standpoint, Asians tend to have a fatalistic point of view if they are not able to conceive naturally and never consider the male as being the factor. Further studies may help provide ways to increasing access to infertility care to all women, especially those who may not seek fertility care right away.
As a Filipino woman, I can relate to all of this. I viewed it as a failure that I couldn’t conceive naturally. It was embedded in our Filipino culture that a woman was supposed to have babies. And growing in a family-oriented atmosphere, I still waited 5 long years before I sought medical help with my husband.
According to studies, women in the Latino community are perceived as fertile, cultural stigmas of seeking infertility care, fear of finding out who is the cause of infertility, fatalism view, and just a lack of awareness that doctors can help with infertility causes Hispanic women to not seek fertility treatment and care.
In an article in Women’s Day, Liz Picco, a health educator, writes a heartfelt post about her struggles with infertility as a Latina. She gives great advice on how to provide support to others who are trying to conceive.
From reading all these research regarding diverse women, it is interesting to learn that the misconceptions about infertility are similar for Black, Asian, and Hispanic women. Let’s break and erase that stigma by bringing infertility awareness and support to all women.
What you can do
Chances are you or you know someone personally who is struggling with infertility now. It doesn’t have to be a silent battle to fight alone anymore. Here are ways we can all help each other –
- Start the conversation – With your medical provider. Early detection of infertility is key, so the sooner you seek your medical provider’s input, the better are your chances with ART options. Be open to talk to a therapist or your family and friends about your infertility struggles. Your closest family and friends may not understand or know what to say, so educate them with information you’ve gained.
- Join support groups – Whether in person or online, there are so many support groups for all women dealing with infertility. A quick search on social media such as Facebook or Instagram gives so many options for infertility support groups that provide insights and hope for those struggling. One that I enjoy is Circle + Bloom which contains meditation guides to ease stress.
- Advocate for access – We know IVF treatments are expensive and we know minority women are not seeking infertility care, so let’s advocate for access. Whether it’s supporting IVF grants financially or advocating legislation to improve access, we can erase the stigma of infertility.
We’re stronger and better together
Whether it is you, your sister, daughter, coworker or friend, you are not alone in your infertility journey. We are stronger and better together! Let’s build each other up by talking, supporting, and advocating for all women’s care.
As a Special Education teacher, I always advocate inclusivity – my students with their special needs shouldn’t be left out because of their uniqueness. We’re all unique and special in our own way. Whether your journey to motherhood is through IVF, surrogacy, or adoption, it does not make you less of a mother.
It takes a village to raise a child. That village needs to be supported and loved in order to do that. By raising awareness of women and infertility, we can help all women. Why can’t we build a community that is inclusive and accepting so we can raise each other up?
Let’s have an open discussion about that. Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.