It’s no secret that women across the US are experiencing infertility at an epic rate. It’s all around us in the media. There are more 2 income households than ever. Young women who attend college are just as likely, if not more likely than young men, to obtain advanced professional degrees. Those professional degrees help women get high-profile and higher paying jobs. So at 24, many women are just starting their career. At 30, many are entering middle management and suddenly they’re 40-55, married(maybe), senior management with the career of their dreams. However, one accomplishment in life has eluded them; A baby! No problem for these super women, right? Wrong. The problem is that the human female body has not changed in millions of years and most women hit their fertile peak between the ages of 23-31. There are also economic ramifications.
This scenario manifests itself across racial spectrums. However, no group of women is negatively impacted by infertility more so than Black Women. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, married black women face infertility twice as often as married white women. However, 15% of white women ages 25-44 in the US have sought medical help to get pregnant vs. 8% of black women.
In a recent University of Michigan study published in the journal, Psychology of Women Quarterly: Silent and Infertile: An Intersectional Analysis of the Experiences of Socioeconomically Diverse African-American Women with Infertility. The chief investigator, Rosario Ceballo, uncovers the psychological, social and economic ramifications of infertility in Black Women. Researchers interviewed 50 African-American Women of different socioeconomic backgrounds regarding infertility and relationships with friends, relatives and doctors. The interviewees ranged in age from 21-52. Most were married and many of the women both had college degrees and worked full-time. All of the women met the clinical definition of infertility “a condition in which a woman is unable to conceive after 12 or more months of regular, unprotected sex”. The researchers noted that in describing the difficulty of getting pregnant, 32% of the women discussed stereotyped beliefs that equated being a “real woman” to motherhood. In response to their infertility, some felt that they were “not a complete woman” because they didn’t have a child. They believed that God intended women to have children, which exacerbated their sense of shame. Not only did they feel shame, but most of the women in the study confessed to keeping their situation a secret because, “in our culture, it’s not something that you share”. Throw in the fact that some of the respondents found that the cost of fertility was just was too costly. What you are now left with are women with fragile self-esteems.
So what do we do with this data? How do we begin to repair these fragile, broken self-esteems? Helen Stephens, Founder and CEO of Diversity Fertility Services, a Fertility Service Organization, the parent company of Oshun Fertility, a unique fertility services company that is specifically for people of African and Latino descent, recommends 5 major factors to consider when facing infertility:
- Know Yourself!” It is important to have a detailed understanding of your family’s medical history as factors contributing to infertility may be genetic, “explains Stephens, “Do not assume that aunts and cousins do not have children because they just didn’t want any. Have those difficult conversations and you may be surprised by what you uncover”.
- Forgive Yourself! Infertility is not your fault. Infertility is a disease state. Diagnosis and treatment should be aggressively sought after just as you would for any other disease.
- Have a Fertility Plan. Once diagnosed, it is important to discuss your specific factors with your Reproductive Endocrinologist and immediately begin to explore your options. Your fertility plan may be as simple as adopting an exercise and nutrition regiment. Some fertility plans may require utilizing Egg Donation, Surrogacy and even adoption. The process can be overwhelming, However, A full-service fertility service agency like Diversity Fertility Services can assist you in developing a comprehensive plan which will help to guide you through the financial and medical process and optimize your chances of success.
- Love Yourself! As the aforementioned study indicates, psychological and emotional damage could be imminent when going through infertility. The practice of affirmation is helpful. Stephens says, “Look at yourself in the mirror every day, every chance you get and tell yourself that you’re beautiful! That you’re great! That you are awesome! That you are a woman! No matter what people may say, no matter what people may think. Tell yourself that you are a goddess, a priestess a queen! Whatever it takes to make you feel good about you.” Stephens also recommends at least 20 minutes of daily meditation and/or prayer. “Prayer is talking to God, but meditation is God talking to you”, added Stephens, “don’t go day without that important conversation.”
- Find Support. Talking with others experiencing the same situation can be liberating. There can be great comfort in knowing that others are going through same thing. It’s even better when you can share and release your emotions through conversations with a captive audience whose only purpose at that moment is to support you. Helen Stephens strongly recommends seeking support through a licensed therapist or a support group: There are several organizations such as the Cade Foundation and Fertility for Colored Girls that are dedicated to providing healing to women and men of Color that have been affected by infertility. Blogs specific to infertility are also a great resource. Many of these blogs are written by women who have, themselves experienced infertility and are sharing through their blogs as a part of their own healing process. Some offer forums that allow you as an individual to share your experience with others and still remain anonymous. Blogs can be an easy and inexpensive way to release the frustration and find support for this intimidating disease state.
These factors are a great place to begin the healing process and ultimately defeat the silent bully called infertility. Learn more about the services that oshun Fertility offers, http://theroottv.theroot.com/video/Infertility-is-a-Disease-But-Th?wpisrc=burger