As this article in Oprah Magazine states, “Infertility doesn’t discriminate.” However, there is a common misconception that infertility doesn’t exist in the black community. Though, as reported by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in this article, “Married black women are nearly twice as likely as white women to experience challenges conceiving.”
In February, Dana James contributed an amazing article to the Babies After 35 blog sharing her experience with PCOS and infertility as a black woman. She shared her insight on how infertility and the lack of discussion on the topic amongst African American communities made her feel very alone as she faced the reality that she might never be able to have children.
She shared, “As an African American woman, a black woman, I had no one to talk to about my situation because in my community infertility was, and is, a taboo subject. It has always been perceived that black women are just naturally fertile. Maybe that theory was passed down from the years of slavery, where black women were used to breed children to increase the value of the plantation. So if you were barren, then you were thought of as just useless and held no value. So being infertile came with the shame of being lesser, of no worth or and of no value.”
Facing infertility can be daunting for any woman, and increasingly more difficult if one feels isolated or lacks information and support to help her find answers. Like Dana, you might even have shared a similar feeling that “seeking alternative methods to conceive, like fertility treatments, was only for the rich or other races.”
I assure you though, that every woman has the right to learn about all options available when seeking help on her fertility journey. That is why today we are breaking down some of the barriers that exist when it comes to black women and infertility.
Let’s discuss some of the causes of higher rates of infertility amongst black women. The most common reasons for infertility in black women are tubal factor, delayed childbearing, fibroids, PCOS and obesity. Of these, uterine fibroids is the leading cause; African American women have a three times greater chance of developing fibroids when compared to Caucasian women.
In this interview with Dr. Kemi Nurudeen of Houston Fertility Institute, we discuss these infertility challenges further. Click below to watch:
For a woman over 30 and not sure if she wants kids, it is beneficial to start the dialogue with your OB-GYN in your early 30s or as soon thereafter as possible. As Dana shared in her article, “It took a lot of research on my own and the encouragement of my husband to finally be comfortable with having a conversation with my doctor. I was finally given the help and support that I needed–and it all came from outside of my own community.”
While it might be a taboo subject amongst your household, family, friends, or community, know that you are not alone in what you face. In fact, that is part of why The Babies After 35 community exists- to provide a community of women around fertility education and support. In addition, talk to your doctor about what options exist to help you conceive, as well as utilize these great resources:
Many women, especially black women, have a similar experience of shame, depression, and anxiety around infertility. Infertility is not something to be ashamed of though. If it is your dream to be a mother, then I assure you that you have a right to that opportunity.
Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy.
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