In 2018, there were many health stories that captured headlines like, progress on the opioid epidemic (yay!) and lower health care costs (win!) but nothing hit closer to home than our forever FLOTUS Michelle Obama sharing her personal struggle with infertility, and using invitro to help her get pregnant. You see, I know this story all too well because I too needed a little help to complete my family. I applaud her willingness to expose her unexpected hurdles to motherhood and for putting a much-needed spotlight on infertility issues within the African American community. The reality is; African American women are much more likely to be affected by infertility than any other racial group in America and with a culture of secrecy and shame - it’s no wonder that there is so much misinformation out there. It’s time to set the record straight.
Here are 5 the myths about infertility you need to know:
1. Myth: African American Women Don’t Have Fertility Problems
Black women are often viewed as oversexed, baby making machines who don’t have any problems conceiving. I mean, seriously? I have so many girlfriends who waited until their wedding night to lose their virginity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. In reality, black women are nearly twice as likely to experience challenges conceiving and are less likely to actually know anything about infertility! Ladies, it’s super important to find a doc you trust and talk about your fertility. No questions are off limits. Establishing a relationship with a fertility expert helps to identify issues early, possibly improving your outcomes.
2. Myth: African American Women Have an easy Time Accessing Treatment
Truth be told, black women are more likely to be affected by infertility, but they are less likely to get help. With the average cost of one IVF treatment ranging anywhere from $10,000 to $15, 000 - this treatment is often out of reach for many women. What makes it even more challenging, is that your total cost may be even higher depending on your insurance coverage, fertility drugs, and other fees. Many states currently have laws in place requiring insurance companies to pay for fertility services. But women on Medicaid, who are work for self-insured companies, or don’t have health insurance at all, don’t qualify for coverage- leaving a large group of women shut out from these much-needed services.
Even though there are barriers to treatment, please know that many fertility clinics offer financing options or financial support for treatment, so don’t be afraid to ask! Many times these clinics will help you figure out what your insurance pays for to help minimize your out-of-pocket costs.
3. Myth: Infertility only Affects Women over 35
So you might know that getting pregnant becomes harder with age, but what you might not be aware of is that some younger women are also are having trouble getting preggo too. A recent study showed that 9 percent of married women ages 25 to 34 had trouble conceiving. There are so many reasons for this, including having a medical condition that impacts your fertility like fibroids. Fibroids are noncancerous growths in your uterus and are more common among African American women. Depending on its location, some fibroids can reduce your chances of getting pregnant by about 50 percent. Even though it may not possible prevent fibroids, making healthy lifestyle choices like eating fruits and veggies and keeping your weight in check may help decrease your risk, so reach for that apple instead of the doughnut!
4. Myth: Infertility is a Women’s Issue
Girl, please! While it’s true that a third of infertility cases are related to female reproductive issues, a third -yes, just as many cases are related to male reproductive problems. Male infertility may be caused by problems with the testicles, hormonal imbalance, or blockages in the male reproductive organs. Because it may be difficult for the man in your life to deal with his infertility diagnosis, make sure that you there to support him and encourage him to express his feelings rather than holding onto any feelings of shame or guilt.
5. Myth: Women Must Undergo This Journey Alone
You might think that your fertility journey is something you should be able to handle on your own, so shy away from revealing your struggles with others-even your close friends and family. Boo, don’t do that! It’s important to seek support from those you trust including your doctor. Talk to your OB/GYN or women’s health expert about your concerns so they can give resources, or make a referral if necessary. Trust me, they want to see you with the best possible outcome.
Infertility is a complex and often misunderstood condition. Take the time to become informed even if you are not thinking about getting pregnant for the next few years. There are many resources and tools available to help you in your journey to help that sperm to finally meet your egg.
Have you or anyone in your family had to deal with infertility?
Janelle King, MPH, BSN, RN
Janelle is a Registered Nurse with a Master's degree in Public Health. During her nursing career she has worked extensively in reproductive and sexual health. In her spare time you can find writing about sexual and reproductive health on her blog Thenursenote.com. Follow her on social media @thenursenote.