Black History Month is a time to honor and celebrate the legacy and contributions of the Black community in the U.S. It is also an excellent opportunity to learn about the racial disparities that exist to this day in order to continue working toward equity and equality.
Kindbody providers, Dr. Deborah Ikhena-Abel and Dr. Tonya Wood, highlighted some of the most prevalent racial disparities in fertility. Here are 4 things you should know about racial disparities in the world of fertility and 4 simple ways you can help:
- Black women are more likely to face fertility challenges but far less likely to seek treatment
Black women are less likely to talk about their fertility challenges or seek help despite being 1.5 to 2 times more likely than white women to experience infertility (Bey et al., 2021). Black women also have lower rates of utilization of assisted reproductive technology treatments to conceive and often wait longer than women of other ethnic groups to seek care (Seifer et al., 2020, Bey et al., 2021).
- Black women are more likely to suffer with tubal or uterine abnormalities and fibroids
Black women are more likely to suffer with tubal or uterine abnormalities that interfere with achieving pregnancy (Seifer et al., 2020). Not only do Black women have higher incidences of uterine fibroids, their uterine fibroids tend to be more numerous, painful and thus, they are more likely to be recommended for more drastic interventions like hysterectomies (Eltoukhi et al., 2014).
- Black women have poorer outcomes with fertility treatment
Black women had less implantation rates, higher cycle cancellation rates, and were less likely to have a live birth after an initial cycle than white women (Seifer et al., 2020). This can be attributed to multiple factors including uterine fibroids, obesity, and seeking care at an older age (Bey et al., 2021). Age is the most predictive factor of fertility.
- Black women are more likely to discontinue fertility treatment
Black women are more likely than white women to discontinue treatment even when they have similar insurance coverage and chances of success (Bedrick et al., 2019, Bey et al., 2021).
These findings highlight the need to raise awareness and bridge the gap in fertility and family-building care. Here are 4 simple ways you can help increase access to care and improve patient outcomes in the Black community:
- Educate yourself
Talk to friends and family about reproductive health. Learn about your family health history and share this information with your doctor. Discuss your family-building goals with your provider. A Kindbody pulse assessment can help you understand where your fertility health stands. Remember that knowledge is power and it’s never too early (or too late) to learn more about your body and your fertility.
- Dispel myths
Dispel fertility myths when you hear them. Black women are not hyper-fertile or unaffected by infertility. This is a harmful myth, so it’s important to dispel it when you hear it.
- Become an advocate
Join advocacy groups like Resolve to help make a difference. Participate in online and in-person infertility awareness events. Support organizations like Fertility For Colored Girls and The Broken Brown Egg that are committed to helping improve the fertility experience in the Black community. Raise your voice by voting.
- Ask for fertility benefits at work
Fertility coverage at work is crucial in increasing access to care. While 23% of large employers offer fertility benefits to their employees, the majority of people aren’t covered. Fertility and family-building journeys can be expensive, complex, time consuming, stressful, and emotionally draining. Having fertility coverage at work can make a huge difference. Studies show that 65 percent of employers offer fertility benefits in direct response to employee requests. Don’t know how to ask? Check out our blog for a few helpful tips.
Learn more about fertility and the Black experience here:
Racial Disparities in Infertility for Black Women
Black History Month and Fertility: The Journey So Far
About Our Contributors:
Dr. Ikhena-Abel is a Reproductive Endocrinologist who specializes in caring for several women’s health conditions including infertility, fertility preservation, polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome, recurrent pregnancy loss and irregular or absent periods. Dr. Wood is a licensed psychologist with over 20 years of clinical and teaching experience. She focuses largely on relationships, women’s health and infertility.
Bedrick, B.S., Anderson, K., Broughton, D.E., Hamilton, B. and Jungheim, E.S., 2019. Factors associated with early in vitro fertilization treatment discontinuation. Fertility and sterility, 112(1), pp.105-111.
Eltoukhi, H. M.; Modi, M.N.; Weston, M.; Armstrong, A.Y; Stewart E.A. (2014). The health disparities of uterine fibroid tumors for African American women: a public health issue. American journal of obstetrics and gynecology, 210(3), 194–199.
Jackson-Bey, T., Morris, J., Jasper, E., Edwards, D.R.V., Thornton, K., Richard-Davis, G. and Plowden, T.C., 2021. Systematic review of racial and ethnic disparities in reproductive endocrinology and infertility: where do we stand today?. F&S Reviews, 2(3), pp.169-188.
Seifer, D. B,; Simsek, B., Wantman, E., & Kotylar, A.M. (2020). Status of racial disparities between black and white women undergoing assisted reproductive technology in the US. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 19(1) 117.
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