Why Are Black Individuals Seeking Less Fertility Treatment?2023-12-15T09:42:37-07:00

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Why Are Black Individuals Seeking Less Fertility Treatment?

By Atiya Jordan
December 14, 2023

Black women are twice as likely to suffer from infertility than white women, but social stigmas and cultural barriers — supported by new research — contribute to Black adults seeking fertility treatment at lower rates.

While more than 13% of American women aged 15 to 49 have fertility challenges, a recent report by a leading fertility clinic network delved deeper into the issues facing the Black community. BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with Dr. Stephanie Marshall Thompson, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at The Institute for Reproductive Medicine and Science and a member of the CCRM Fertility network. She spearheaded CCRM’s inaugural Black Fertility Matters survey, which revealed “several racial and cultural barriers that prevent access to quality fertility care and treatment for the Black community,” according to a press release.

“Black women and men should know that it’s time for their stories to be heard. The more we keep silent, the more we perpetuate generational trauma when it comes to infertility. We must tell Black couples they are not alone, and it is not their fault,” Thompson told BE.

The survey consisted of 1,000 Black men and women respondents across the United States between the ages of 24 and 54. Out of the group, 57% of Black individuals were less likely to seek fertility treatment, and 26% experienced racial and cultural bias when they did seek it. For example, Black women who received care found that clinics and providers lacked cultural understanding. For 48% of survey respondents, seeking fertility treatment with someone of the same ethnicity would make them feel more comfortable. Meanwhile, 46% of respondents cited a lack of “adequate representation/inclusivity in the fertility treatment industry” for the Black community.

“Healthcare providers need to step up to the plate and stop allowing healthcare biases to affect how patients are counseled. We need to normalize infertility as a medical diagnosis that affects millions of people including Black couples at a disproportionate rate. Providers can encourage patients to take charge of their health, ask questions and not be afraid to share their stories,” Thompson suggested.

Furthermore, the CCRM report revealed that 55% of respondents believed there were stigmas associated with Black individuals and infertility. The most agreeable answer was that Black people were less likely to seek the necessary treatment. “In fact, we suffer from infertility at a higher rate often due to delayed diagnosis and treatment,” said Thompson.

It is important to note that causes of infertility are estimated to stem from male reproductive issues one-third of the time and female reproductive issues one-third of the time. “Black men suffer from higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, all of which can contribute to abnormalities in sperm counts,” Thompson explained.

To take charge of improvement, Thompson offered two tips:

  • Take care of your general health by maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and completing all your recommended preventative health screenings.
  • We should also learn to track our reproductive cycles and symptoms from a young age so that we can identify what’s normal (and abnormal) in our bodies.
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