Common Misconceptions about Minority Women and Infertility

Guest Blog by Mitra Khaksari

Misconception: Minority women have children earlier, so they don’t experience fertility problems.

Reality: While the media often portrays the stereotype of very young minority women having children (think Precious: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire), there are minority women who are pursuing education and careers who wait to have children. According to the US Department of Education, the percentage of minority college students has been increasing steadily in recent decades. From 1976 to 2010, the percentage of Hispanic students rose from 3 to 13 percent, Asian/Pacific Islander from 2 to 6 percent, and black students from 9 to 14 percent. In truth, minority women report higher rates of infertility compared to white women according to the 1998 National Survey of Family Growth. Non-Hispanic black women report 10.5% rate of infertility and Hispanic women report 7.0% infertility. This is a widespread misconception that often minority women hold themselves. It’s time to spread the truth about how many women, couples, and families infertility really affects.

Misconception: Minority women rarely experience miscarriage or stillbirth.

Reality: American culture and society portrays minority women, especially black women, as superiorly fertile. With this misconception, it’s no surprise that most people don’t know that rates of miscarriage and stillbirth occur at 2.3 times higher rates in African American women (11.13) compared to non-Hispanic white women (4.79). The rates are also elevated for Hispanic women (5.44) and American Indian/Alaskan Native women (6.17). These rates remain high despite controlling for income and education levels. Again, the curtain of silence surrounding these issues needs to be lifted.

Misconception: Minority women have equal access to infertility treatment in the US.

Reality: When most people think of IVF, or other “high-technology” services, they think of a wealthy, older, married white couple. This is certainly most often the case. Yet, the four most common treatments for fertility problems received by women and couples in the US are essentially “low technology”. They include services such as medical advice (60%), diagnostic testing (50%), medical help to prevent miscarriage (44%), and drugs to induce ovulation (35%). Strikingly, the majority of the women who receive even these “low technology” services are older, married, wealthy, non-Hispanic white women. So, if minority women are experiencing higher rates of fertility problems including miscarriage, why aren’t they receiving services? Some of this problem has been attributed to finances, as I’m sure everyone knows how expensive treatment can be. Sadly, research has shown that this problem extends beyond finances.

Researchers at Drexel University are conducting a study entitled “Barriers to Treatment for Fertility Problems” to figure out why minority women are using services for fertility problems at lower rates. Other researchers have conjectured that cultural, social, or religious barriers may be different for minority women in the US. The survey takes about 10 minutes to finish and is completely anonymous. Minority women between the ages of 18-45, not currently pregnant, and have difficulty conceiving naturally through unprotected intercourse, and/or carrying a pregnancy to live-birth delivery are invited to participate in this study. You must also have an in-person source of social support.

In appreciation of your participation, two $100 donations are being made to the American Fertility Association and Resolve: The National Infertility Association by the research team to thank you for sharing your experiences and to benefit others who struggle with fertility problems. If you have any questions about this study, you may contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Pamela Geller, Ph.D., or the research coordinator, Mitra Khaksari, B.S., at 215-762-4995.

Click on this anonymous survey link to participate.

Mitra Khaksari is a psychology graduate student at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. Her research interests include women’s health, particularly the impact of infertility on mental health and interpersonal relationships, and the unique experience of minority women with infertility. She is the research coordinator for The Philadelphia Fertility Project, a study assessing the psychosocial correlates of infertility treatment in women, with a focus on minority women.

{ 1 comment… add one }

  • Sahaj Kohli (@SahajKohli) April 20, 2016, 12:09 pm

    Hi Mitra,

    I’d love to crosspost this (or an updated variation of this) on our site for National Infertility Awareness Week next week. Please do email me.


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