Black Women No Longer Have to Stay Silent on Infertility

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Infertility has now been added to the long list of diseases that African-American Women are at higher risk for than their racial counterparts. The list also includes heart disease.

“The Infertility Cure” written by Robin D. Stone for the March 2013 Issue of ESSENCE reported that “Black Women Are More Likely to Have Trouble Conceiving a Baby and Less Likely to Pursue Infertility Treatment”.

11.5 percent of African-American women report infertility compared to just 7 percent of Caucasians.

According to “Infertility Awareness Week: 5 Barriers To Pregnancy Success For Black Women” written by Jessica Cumberbatch Anderson on The Huffington Post, of the many causes of infertility in our community are age, uterine fibroids, excess weight, sexually transmitted infection, and endometriosis. All of which, except endometriosis, are more prevalent in the black community.

One and five women are now having their first child after thirty-five out of choice. Many women want to have their career and life in order before they prepare for a child.

This is a disadvantage because the older the woman is, the less likely she will get pregnant. Age decreases the number of eggs available, but also the quality. According to Valerie Montgomery Rice, M.D. if a woman is 35 she has a 15 percent chance of getting pregnant per menstrual cycle. Every 2 to 3 years this chance is cut in half. After age 45 it is less than one percent.

Another contributing factor in the struggle in fertility is uterine fibrosis. African-American women are about three times greater than that of white women. The uterine fibroids black women have are larger and more numerous than women of other ethnicities.

African-American women also tend to have higher rates of obesity. Excess fat disrupts hormones and affects fertility.

Furthermore, sexually transmitted infections disproportionately affect black women. The most damaging are chlamydia and gonorrhea. Chlamydia, which does not have the same effects as other STIs such as pain and fever, still affects the body because it can cause severe damage before a woman knows she has it. Gonorrhea, which 18.7 times more prevalent in the black community than white, leads to infertility because it scars the fallopian tubes, which makes it difficult for an egg to pass through.

Even if an African-American woman knows she is infertile, she is still unlikely to seek treatment.

“Most of the women who come to my office are African-American. Of the women who come to my office for infertility treatment none of them are colored,” Debora Whitehurst-Brown, Chief ObGyn at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, MD, said.

Infertility treatments offer no guarantees and are extremely arduous. Of the women who suffer from infertility treatment only 8.4 percent of African-American women will seek treatment, while 13.8 Caucasian women will. African-American women do not seek treatment because of cost, treatment can easily run into the tens of thousands, religious reasons or doubt in the medical system.

There are many treatments for infertility including IVF, during which an egg is united with a sperm in a lab and the fertilized egg is placed in the uterus. Couples or individuals who wish to have children may also turn to gestational carrier or surrogate.

Though the costs of treatment may be prohibitive, infertility treatments may be covered by insurance depending on where you live. Check if your state is covered here.

The best ways to prevent infertility are preemptive. Get tested for sexual transmitted diseases and infections every sixth months if you are sexually active, and seek all available fertility tests at your gynecologist. If you want to have a child, you have to prepare for it.


A Trip to the Gynecologist
Tick Tock and It Don't Stop: One Black Woman's Quest for Motherhood 

Tatiana M. Brown is a native of Washington, D.C. who is currently pursuing a Bachelors of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism at Hofstra University. Follow her @TatianaMBrown or check out her website, or contact her at

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