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

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.

Asian Women

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.

Hispanic Women

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. 

 

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18 Comments

  1. I never would have thought black women would be more affected by it. I just thought it was more of a genetic thing. that’s crazy. My friend had the issue, but they did invitro, so expensive but it ended up working out for them. Great read!

  2. This is brilliant.!
    Articulate well write. Infertility is a growing problem in our society.
    I found your article to be informative and educative.

    As an African woman, I know that my society doesn’t spare a woman with fertility issues. Her in laws come at her heavily. There are pressures on the man to marry a second wife.

    Infertility is always viewed as the woman’s fault.
    Alot of the negative perception is beginning to change as more people are starting to be open about it.

    Those who have had unsuccessful IVF treatments have gone on to adopt children now.

    Adoption and IVF are no longer a taboo subject in my community.

    Thank you for this. I will definitely come back for me insights from you.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Awareness and education on this topic is key to break the stigma within cultures. Thank you for sharing!

  3. A very helpful discussion here and infertility issues are so much avoided in my country people wouldn’t dare talk of it or discuss such issues with a person that hasn’t managed to fall pregnant and yet it is so common nowadays. The statistics for women in general as being 1out of 7 is quite huge and some women would not seek any medical help to fall pregnant. Great educative article here.

    1. Thanks Donny! If I may ask, what country are you from? Thanks for reading…pls share with others who may benefit:)

  4. Hi Dana, thank you for talking about infertility and educating us on this topic. I didn’t know there was a cultural tag linked to the way how different woman view infertility. But it’s good to know that, specially among woman of color, there has been an awakening for seeking medical treatment.

  5. This is a beautiful thoughtful topic you based your niche on – thank you for joining in this growing conversation which up to 10years ago was taboo in my cultural African background. The blame was always heavily laid on the woman! Now IVF, Fertility treatment (man or woman, adoption, etc are all things which are approached as a couple and without laying blame or shame on a specific gender. And I was happy to read through your beautiful site, not just this post, and that you based your topic on this sensitive subject while also sharing your personal experience. Thank you and well-done. It is interesting to read in this post, about perceptions in other cultures you touched on, and as you rightly say, infertility, after all, does not discriminate. Thank you – I have bookmarked your site to be able to visit again.

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words and insights! Bringing attention to infertility awareness is my passion and if I could help one person struggling through this journey, I would be forever grateful. Thank you for reading and feel free to share with others who may benefit https://ivfcorner.com

  6. Such interesting facts you have shared here on infertility regarding race. I never would gave thought that Asian women and African American women struggle more than white women to fall pregnant. I find it sad that so many women don’t go for fertility help sooner due to stigma. I never had any problem falling pregnant but I know a lot of women that have struggled to get pregnant and it is so heartbreaking.

    1. It was so interesting when I did the research – infertility certainly affects all women from all walks of life. Thank you for reading!

  7. Wow

    One of the most interesting blogs I have read. I never knew that Africans were twice likely to be infertile compared to white women.
    I also am surprised about Asians because I thought they have high fertility because they generally have many children just like black women.

    1. I too wouldn’t have known until I did the research and fact finding for this article – so interesting to learn and made me more inspired to bring this infertility awareness to others. Thanks for reading!

  8. Hi Dana,
    It’s so good of you to point out that infertility is not just a caucasian issue. I may be living in the dark ages, but I never would have thought that to begin with, lol.
    It’s sad that women of different nationalities won’t consider help due to their own cultural beliefs. As you said, it’s every women’s inherit right to bear children, and fertility help should be available to women of all races.
    Your article will help many struggling couples to understand it’s not uncommon, and that there is a lot of support for them.
    Cheers,
    Suzanne

    1. I’m hoping that bringing awareness to this issue will help all women understand it is ok to seek help. And ultimately break the stigma of infertility. Thanks for reading and feel free to share with others who may benefit.

  9. It’s a devastating situation to not be able to have a child of your own. My daughter’s first 3 pregnancies ended in termination, all at 4-5 months due to severe chromosomal abnormalities that endangered her life with no hope of giving birth to an infant who could have survived outside the womb. This was made far more difficult by people who assumed the terminations were due to the fact the she didn’t want to give birth to a “less than perfect” child. She pursued other options, including adoption and surrogate but they didn’t pan out. After everything she went through, she finally had a pregnancy that “stuck” and now has a beautiful 3 and a half year old girl. The only thing I can say is…do what you have to do but don’t give up. Miracles DO happen.

    1. Amazing story of the miracle of life! Thank you so much Cynthia for sharing your daughter’s story with me. Much blessings to you and your family!

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