Are you struggling to conceive and worried about talking to your healthcare provider? Black women are 50% less likely than white women to seek and receive care for infertility, but doing so can open the door to building a family. Before you can seek help from your provider, it’s important to consider why it feels challenging to do so.
Overcome the stigma
In many circumstances, infertility is considered a “taboo” topic of conversation. It’s common for those struggling to become parents to feel shame around the issue and it can be very painful when the timeline that you envisioned for building your family is longer than you expected it would be.
Infertility can certainly make a person feel that their body is broken or has somehow betrayed them. These feelings can bring on feelings of shame and guilt. But infertility is not your fault and you do not need to suffer in silence.
There are many ways to become a parent. In fact, most people who experience infertility are able to conceive — some just need a bit of help from a healthcare provider to do so. Creating open, honest lines of communication with your provider is one of the best ways to stay on top of your health, and your fertility. If you’re in pain, say something. If you’re struggling, say something. Infertility is tough enough on its own. Staying quiet about it only makes it more difficult.
Disregarded Black pain
It’s understandable why Black women may not feel comfortable talking to their healthcare provider about this stigmatized topic. Studies and anecdotal evidence show that Black women often feel like their healthcare providers do not take their pain seriously. This leads to delayed (or no) diagnoses and treatments, with long-term negative consequences for far too many people. However, oftentimes there is a connection between general health struggles and fertility.
For example, endometriosis is a medical condition that can make getting pregnant more difficult, especially when left untreated. However, endometriosis is diagnosed less often in Black than white women, possibly because severe pain is one of the most common symptoms. If you’re noticing that your healthcare provider is overlooking your health condition(s) and/or dismissing your pain, know that this is unacceptable. Unfortunately, a large part of the burden of correcting issues with your provider falls on you, the patient. If your provider isn’t taking your pain seriously or if they are failing to treat you with respect, it’s time to find a new one. This can be very frustrating, overwhelming, and it can take tenacity, but you deserve to work with a provider who wants to listen and who treats your health appropriately.
Armed with the right information, you’ll be empowered to stand up for yourself as necessary. You know your body, and you know your pain. Advocate for yourself as best you can — if you’re in pain, don’t let someone talk you into believing you’re making it up or you’re not strong enough. And if your healthcare provider doesn’t take that seriously, find one who will.
Ovia Health is here to empower you to make the best decisions for your health, including choosing a healthcare provider who hears you and sees you.
- Tina K. Sacks (2018) Performing Black womanhood: a qualitative study of stereotypes and the healthcare encounter, Critical Public Health, 28:1, 59-69, DOI: 10.1080/09581596.2017.1307323.
- Roosa Tikkanen, Munira Z. Gunja, Molly FitzGerald, Laurie Zephyrin. “Maternal Mortality and Maternity Care in the United States Compared to 10 Other Developed Countries.” The Commonwealth Fund. The Commonwealth Fund. November 18, 2020. https://www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/issue-briefs/2020/nov/maternal-mortality-maternity-care-us-compared-10-countries.
- Anjani Chandra, Ph.D., and Casey E. Copen, Ph.D., National Center for Health Statistics; and Elizabeth Hervey Stephen, Ph.D., Georgetown University. “Infertility and Impaired Fecundity in the United States, 1982–2010: Data From the National Survey of Family Growth.” National Health Statistics Report. August 14, 2013. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr067.pdf.
- Ceballo R, Graham ET, Hart J. Silent and Infertile: An Intersectional Analysis of the Experiences of Socioeconomically Diverse African American Women With Infertility. Psychology of Women Quarterly. 2015;39(4):497-511. doi:10.1177/0361684315581169
- Huinink, Johannes, and Martin Kohli. “A Life-Course Approach to Fertility.” Demographic Research, Demographic Research. April 25, 2014. https://www.demographic-research.org/Volumes/Vol30/45/.