02/18/2021 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/18/2021 10:43
February is Black History Month, and in its honor, Progyny hosted a webinar about understanding the health conditions that increase infertility in the Black community and finding the right doctor. We expanded the dialogue we started with our Fertility and Maternal Health in the Black Community webinar by pulling together experts to discuss the health conditions specific to the Black community and insights for finding a physician you connect with.
While infertility impacts 1 in 8, Black Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) women experience infertility at even higher rates than their White counterparts, even when taking into account socioeconomics or risk factors such as uterine fibroids. Despite these higher rates of infertility, Black women are less likely to access treatment and if they do, may wait twice as long before seeking help. In case you missed it, here are the highlights of the webinar:
There are a lot of myths out there about Black women and fertility, so we wanted to take the time to address some of the most commons we've heard.
Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors made of muscle that grow in the uterus. Although they can be harmless, uterine fibroids can also increase the chances of infertility and cause complications when giving birth.
Half of Black women will be affected by uterine fibroids in their lives, which is about 2-3 times the rate of White women. Additionally, Black women often develop symptoms much younger than White women (26 compared to 35) and are more likely to experience fibroid growth at ages later ages. Black women are also twice as likely to have fibroid removal surgery recommended than White women.
Some treatments for fibroids include surgery (e.g., hysterectomy), birth control, and other hormone replacement medications.
Black women may face additional difficulties when seeking fertility care. Some of these might look like:
The direct impact of obesity on infertility (decreases rates of natural conception) is well known. According to Black Women's Health Imperative on 'What Healthy Black Women Can Teach Us about Health,' close to 60% of Black women are overweight or obese. Being overweight can look average, but the implications for miscarriage or a high-risk pregnancy remain. Learning to monitor your weight and finding motivation to get active can be helpful in promoting a healthier lifestyle-even if it's a short walk daily or incorporating squats into your daily routine. However, it's important to remember that ideal for weight and height are based on European women and often don't take into account differences among races, such as bone density differences. Often Black women are categorized as overweight but when compared to BMIs of other Black women, they may be a healthy weight.
Here are a few tips on maintaining a healthy BMI:
Men should avoid high heat, keep laptops away from the pelvis, and should switch to loose-fitting underwear.
Experiencing infertility can carry a stronger stigma in the Black community. Because of this many individuals struggling will not speak out about their experience and the accompanying stress.
Some simple ways you can advocate for yourself and expand your support circle include educating yourself about your conditions and the questions you have about it, bringing a significant other or friend to (virtual) appointments with you who will back you up, and using buzzwords like 'concerned' or 'alarmed' with your physician.
If you are not experiencing infertility personally, do your best to educate yourself and your peers about the treatment plans and language. This can help create more accepting communities and lead you to become a more supportive friend or sibling to someone who is personally experiencing infertility.
Here are a few tips/next steps for if you're feeling stressed during treatment:
Studies have shown that health and satisfaction outcomes for Black patients improve dramatically when treated by a Black physician. However, there is a lack of Black physicians, especially in the fertility space. This means finding a physician you connect with more challenging.
Some things to look for when assessing your fit with a clinic and physician include:
Not everyone has many choices of specialists and clinics. If you have limited access and decide to stay with a practice because of its location convenience, that is okay. However, if you don't love your physician, make sure you are aware of any other resources.
During this process, if any feelings of distress or disconnect between you and the physician, trust your gut! These are red flags. You are not stuck with your provider. If you are unhappy with your level of care or want a second opinion, ask for a referral or help finding a new provider.
And, if your physician exhibits patience, knowledge, personalization, and sensitivity to you during your question and appointments, these are green flags! You should leave appointments feeling knowledgeable and empowered.
Thank you for joining as we continue to educate people on infertility in the Black community and understanding the health conditions that affect infertility. Be sure to check out the webinars we have next month:
March 3rd at 3:00pm EST: COVID-19 Update: What to Know About the Vaccine While Trying to Conceive
March 34th at 2:00pm EST: Journey to Fatherhood: Finding Emotional Support