OprahMag.com and WomensHealthMag.com have teamed up on a series to discuss how infertility impacts African-American women and the perception of infertility among the African-American community. They’ve surveyed more than 1,000 women and spoke with patients as well as leaders in the field, including SGF Atlanta’s own Dr. Desireé McCarthy-Keith.
The divide is clear on how women of different races not only talk about infertility but on IF they seek treatment. 15% of white women seek medical help to get pregnant, compared with just 8% of black women.
The results showed over 1/3 of African-American women in the U.S. never talked to their partner, family, or friends about their fertility, making them the group least likely to speak up about the topic.
Why isn’t there more conversation about black women and infertility?
Dr. McCarthy-Keith commented that infertility misrepresentation dates as far back as the 80s, when she says “the faces shown in a rising number of fertility campaigns were usually white.”
“When these kind of programs and services were initially rolled out, even the marketing, the advertising for fertility treatment did not contain women of color,” says McCarthy-Keith. “So if you were a woman of color who was having trouble getting pregnant, you didn’t even see yourself reflected in the services that may be able to help you.”
“And it doesn’t help that when women do seek medical help, doctors often don’t look like them. Of all medical specialists, it was found that OB-GYNs were the least diverse group, with only 18 percent of doctors being of color- of which 11 percent were African American,” adds McCarthy-Keith.
Helping African-American Women Find Support
“Many Black women are seeking to end the silence around infertility in their communities, creating groups for women of color having access to resources, inspiration, and encouragement,” says McCarthy-Keith, who further states that this type of sisterhood is “invaluable.”
“It’s about having a support system in place because if you feel like ‘Everyone around me is having babies except for me,’ seeking those successes is very helpful for visibility,” adds McCarthy-Keith.
How to Talk to Your Doctor about Fertility
“There are specific factors that affect African-American or Black women disproportionately,” says McCarthy-Keith. Uterine fibroids and obesity, for example, are conditions that can negatively impact fertility—and Black women are affected by higher rates of both.
“If you’ve had unprotected intercourse for at least 12 straight months, and you’re under 35 years old, it’s time to see a fertility doctor,” says McCarthy-Keith. “If you’re 35 or older, after six months unprotected, see a fertility doctor,” she adds.
Given uterine conditions are more prevalent among African-American women, SGF recommends that when infertility or recurrent pregnancy loss (two or more miscarriages) occur, patients should consult with a fertility specialist right away. One in eight couples experience infertility, and SGF reminds, early intervention offers the best chances of success.
Learn more about when to seek help from a fertility specialist.
To schedule an appointment with Dr. McCarthy-Keith or another SGF physician, please contact the SGF New Patient Center at 1-877-971-7755 or complete this brief online form.