Honoring AAPI Heritage Month
My father landed in San Francisco from the Philippines, with $10 dollars in his pocket and a head full of hopes and dreams. Now, some 50 years later, his daughter has the privilege of helping others build their own families and carry on this American dream, right here in the heart of downtown San Francisco.
Most Asian-Americans have stories just like this: stories of struggle, courage, and perseverance, and triumph- but what is not often talked about is the similar stories Asian-Americans face when it comes to fertility.
Asian-Americans have a higher prevalence of infertility compared to their white counterparts – greater difficulty conceiving, waiting longer to seek infertility treatment, and have decreased pregnancy and live birth rates, even after undergoing fertility treatment.
Cultural factors may play a large role in this. Asian-Americans may not seek fertility treatment due to social stigma, shame, distrust of physicians, objections to use reproductive technology, especially when it comes to egg and sperm donors, and fear of micro-aggressions from healthcare providers due to language or insurance issues, to name a few. Asian-Americans facing fertility issues have also been shown to experience anxiety, depression, feelings of hopelessness and loss of control, anger, resentment, and low life satisfaction, which makes seeking and continuing care all the more difficult.
There may also be biological factors that can predispose women of Asian descent to fertility issues. Asian-American women are almost three times more likely to have endometriosis compared to white women. Some Asian ethnic groups may also be prone to have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), and present with different clinical features, compared to white women, which makes it more difficult to diagnose. Men of Asian descent may also experience more sexual dysfunction, including erectile dysfunction and low libido, compared to white men.
Despite these issues, Asian-Americans are not well studied in the fertility literature. Furthermore, the studies that are out there tend to lump all Asians into the same category, despite the very different socio-economic and cultural differences various groups have. Sadly, much of the above can also be said about our Black and Latino-American brothers and sisters.
This is why representation is so important. This is why I am so proud to be a part of a company like Kindbody – where 50% of health care providers identify as BIPOC. I am a proud Filipina-American Ob/Gyn. My family history and experience as a brown woman in America informs everything I do, how I speak about certain issues, what questions I ask, how I read between the lines, and how and why I provide care the way I do. More women of color in fertility, and women’s health care in general, can inevitably lead to improved research, improved patient experience, and improved health outcomes.
So, if you are going through a difficult fertility journey, know that you are not alone. Know that there are women like you out there who are looking for support. Know that your journey matters. Know that your voice matters. And that if we support each other, and acknowledge, rather than hide from, our fertility struggles, younger generations too can build their families and achieve that American dream.