Women: Infertility, Fertility, and Pregnancy While Being Black
The challenges, options, hope, and help Black women face while trying to have children
I’ve written this article in summary and response to a documentary “Eggs Over Easy: Black Women and Fertility,” broadcast on the OWN Television Network, January 4, 2022 — Narrated by Keshia Knight Pulliam, an American Actress.
Keshia Knight Pulliam discusses healthcare disparity in general, fertility doctors, cost, lack of representation, lack of healthcare coverage, access, facts and stats, hope, and help for Black women who desire to experience motherhood.
There are various reasons why women may not have kids, or struggle to do so. One of the reasons may be that a woman may have a difficult time conceiving — yes, fertility issues not only plague white women, which we hear about so often, via the media, while giving the perception that it only happens to them, which appears to be the norm.
But, what about women of other ethnicities who also have fertility issues? Specifically, Black women? Why don’t you hear about their fertility stories?
Well, for several reasons, which Keshia Knight Pulliam discusses in the documentary:
Healthcare Disparity in General
The primary reason is healthcare disparity in general, compared to white women, which can manifest in various forms.
Lack of Representation
Lack of representation in clinics, doctors’ offices where marketing materials (brochures, television ads, newspapers, magazines, rarely, if at all show women of color).
These challenges alone create a lack of trust, which is not only deep-seated within Black History in America, as with the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male. But, Black women not seeing women who look like them across media and marketing platforms, which also provokes uneasiness.
Fertility Doctors, Care and Treatment
Black women also feel devalued, and feel they are not taken seriously by doctors.
The documentary also mentions a case of a woman who felt that the fertility specialist attending to her was just ‘taking her through the motions of the basic steps of the run-of-the-mill fertility process’ (my paraphrase), rather than addressing her specific fertility concerns.
She also states: “I never knew of very many women, especially Black women who had fertility issues.”
There’s post-after-post on Google about Black women as mothers and moms-to-be expressing their feelings about, and fears of seeing fertility doctors and obstetricians.
Although not an exhaustive list, these are some of the headlines that were screenshot and shown as a visual within the documentary.
There is enough data to confirm the challenges of fertility and fears, when Black women are patients.
I’ve also interspersed some of my own Google search results and statistics:
- Doctors Often Fail to Listen to Black Mothers, Complicating …
- When Black Women Talk, Doctors Don’t Listen — Magna Law
- America is Failing its Black Mothers | Harvard Public Health
- Trying to Avoid Racist Health Care, Black Women … — NPR
- How training doctors in implicit bias could save the lives of black
- How Our Health Care System Treats Black Mothers Differently
- How Racism Affects Health Outcomes for Pregnant Black …
- Black women are dying in childbirth more often than … — Lohud
- Reproducing while Black: The crisis of Black maternal health …
Infertility Facts and Stats Relative to African American Women
“African American women are 4 to 5 times more likely to develop fibroids than any other race, and they lead the world in hysterectomies,” according to Dr. Ansu Ampu | Naturopathic Doctor Aboriginal Medical Association
80% of Black women will develop fibroids by age 50, according to National Institutes of Health.
More than 200,000 hysterectomies are performed each year for uterine fibroids — National Institutes of Health
Annual Direct Healthcare costs for uterine fibroids exceed $2.1 billion. — National Institutes of Health
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — “Black women in the United States are more than 3 times as likely as white women to die during pregnancy or childbirth.”
Additional Fertility Issues Black Women Face
Miscarriages, spontaneous abortions, and stillbirths
“Black mothers were more than twice as likely to experience stillbirth compared to Hispanic and white mothers.” — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Risk of Miscarriage Among Black Women and White Women in a US Prospective Cohort Study — U.S. National Library of Medicine | National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Miscarriage rates over 40% higher in black women, study … — Tulip Mazumdar Global Health Correspondent | BBC News
Access or Lack Thereof
Two fertility doctors in the piece, also commented on the lack of access by African American women to fertility treatment:
Dr. Brad Van Voorhis, M.D., President of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology states:
“It is clear, there are differences among racial and ethnic groups in terms of frequency, access to treatment, and treatment outcome. We have a great deal more work to do to identify the causes of and eliminate these disparities.“
Dr. Richard Paulson, M.D. | Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology Chief, University of Southern California, President, American Society for Reproductive Medicine has this to say:
“We know that looking at the demographic data and the information that is collected by all the IVF programs in the United States, that there’s a significant disparity and the utilization of infertility care by various ethnic groups. So, typically, IVF is most accessed by white Caucasians. And this is probably cultural as well as socioeconomic.”
Then, there are fertility options and cost associated with each treatment, which can be out-of-reach for many Black women. The cost only compounds if an initial procedure is unsuccessful.
Fertility Options and Cost
For Black women with major fertility issues of fibroids, endometriosis, Polycystic Ovaries Syndrome (PCOS) face a cost of $12,000 to $15,000, which presents a double-whammy.
The dual challenges are disparity in treatment, and the cost of treatment, which are not accessible to many Black women.
- Ovulation Assistance or Ovulation Induction — easiest and simplest first-step in addressing fertility — $3k — $5k
- Freezing Eggs (Cryopreservation) — $10,000 — $20k
- In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) and — $15k — $30k per single cycle. In some states this procedure is free
- Embryo Transfer — $800
- Donor Eggs (pay another woman for her eggs) — $10k — $40k
- Sperm Donation — $300 — $4K
Gestational carrier fees vary:
- 1st-time carrier: $22k — $25k
- 2nd-time carrier: $25k — $30k
- 3rd-time carrier: $30 — $45k
According to the Guttmacher Institute, “Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the proportion of Black and Hispanic women of reproductive age without health insurance fell by 36% and 31%, respectively…” during the time the documentary was produced.
It remains to be determined if the stats for Black and Hispanic women of reproductive age without health insurance has decreased.
By the end of 2022, it will be interesting to see if statistics have improved and disparity gaps have improved for Black women with fertility issues.
Assistance with fertility for Black Women –
- Project Health Equality
- Family Inceptions International | A Black woman-owned agency that helps minority women with fertility issues. — Eloise Drane / Owner
There’s Hope — “Live your life and find other ways to be a mother.”
Alternatives to having biological children:
- Raising a relative’s child(ren)
- Professional Aunt with No Kids (PANK)
- Foster Parenting
- Childless by Choice
“Eggs Over Easy: Black Women and Fertility” is an excellent documentary, as it brings awareness to challenges African-American women face, as they circumvent infertility to become parents, if they choose.