Infertility doesn’t necessarily mean a person can’t get pregnant — it might just be a bit harder for them to do so. Many people struggling with infertility might have another medical issue that could be contributing to their infertility diagnosis. And there are some racial disparities in the diagnoses of these conditions.
For women with endometriosis, the cells of their uterine lining grow in other places in the body, such as the ovaries or fallopian tubes. It can be painful and cause heavy periods, and it can also make getting pregnant more difficult.
Though there is not a clear reason why, endometriosis is less commonly diagnosed in Black women than in white women. More research is needed, but one major factor is likely to be the systemic racism in the American medical system.
Many studies show that healthcare providers take the pain of Black patients — especially Black women — less seriously than they do white patients. Gabrielle Union’s story shows just how hard it can be for Black women at all levels of society — even well known actors — to get the care they need. And because endometriosis presents as physical pain, healthcare providers may discount this symptom and not consider endometriosis.
If you think you might have endometriosis, be your own champion! Don’t let your pain be minimized or disregarded by your healthcare provider. Your pain is real and you know your body better than anyone.
A good provider invests in building a relationship with you, understands your needs, and helps you find ways to manage your pain. There are treatments that can make endometriosis less painful, and make conception more likely.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths of the uterus. And while they usually don’t make it more difficult to get pregnant, they can. Uterine fibroids can also be painful, bringing heavier periods, frequent urination, constipation, and other unpleasant symptoms.
Black women are more likely than non-Black women to develop uterine fibroids. Although more research is needed as to the reason why, Black women tend to have larger fibroids, with more severe symptoms. There may also be a genetic link to uterine fibroids, as women with mothers or sisters who experience them are more likely to experience them themselves.
If you have a family history of fibroids or have reason to think that you may be experiencing them yourself, speak with your healthcare provider.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Endometriosis.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. July 24, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656.
- Bougie, O, Yap, Ma.I, Sikora, L, Flaxman, T, Singh, S. Influence of race/ethnicity on prevalence and presentation of endometriosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BJOG 2019; 126: 1104– 1115.
- Sabin, Janice A. “How We Fail Black Patients in Pain.” AAMC, AAMC. January 6, 2020. https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/how-we-fail-black-patients-pain.
- Mostafavi, Beata. “Understanding Racial Disparities for Women with Uterine Fibroids.” M Health Lab. University of Michigan. August 12, 2020. https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/rounds/understanding-racial-disparities-for-women-uterine-fibroids.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Uterine Fibroids.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. September 16, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/uterine-fibroids/symptoms-causes/syc-20354288.