Raising Infertility Awareness in African American Women

By Bonnie U. Gruenberg (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific researchers from the University of Michigan have been exploring the experiences of African American women and how they cope with infertility. What was found is that many ladies go through infertility in silent suffering, often isolated from their friends and family members.

The Study

The recent study which was published in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, also found that a lot of women experienced a low sense of self and gender identity due to fertility issues. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there are about 6.7 million women ages 15-44 who are unable to become pregnant or carry a baby to term.

According to statistical information around 1.5 million married women are diagnosed as interfile.
Infertility can be a very traumatic experience for a woman to go through. The textbook definition of infertility for women is when she has been unable to conceive a baby after one year of regular, unprotected sex.

The Plight

Women from all backgrounds can be affected by infertility, yet a majority of the research conducted in America examines only wealthy white couples participating in medically assisted conception. Conversely, the authors of this study state African-American women are equally, if not more likely, to experience infertility than a Caucasian female.

For the new study, researchers hosted interviews with 50 African-American females who fit the medical criteria of infertility at some point during their life. The ladies were asked questions about their specific condition, as well as about their relationships with family, friends and doctors.
The females came from an array of different socioeconomic backgrounds, with many of the ladies having a college degree and a full time job. The subjects were ages 21-52 and the vast majority were married or in long-term committed relationships. The females had each spent approximately 1 to 19 years trying to get pregnant.

When the ladies were specifically asked about their infertility difficulties, around 32% of participants spoke about widely-held beliefs that equate being a “woman” with motherhood. One lady said that having no biological children to call her own, “would label you as a failure.” Another one reported feeling inadequate.

For some women in the study, the experience of infertility was influence by religion and coupled with a sense of shame that’s heightened by the belief that God intended for women to have children.
Nearly all of the women interviewed in the study stated they coped with infertility in silence and were isolated, even if a friend or family member was aware of what they were going through.


The silence about infertility in the African-American community could be associated with cultural expectations among the women to be strong, self-reliant and private. Women may also believe other people do not understand or relate to what they are experiencing.

In order to address infertility within the African-American population, the author of the study recommends interventions to help normalize the struggle and to remove the sense of shame and isolation. New techniques must also be developed in order to make assisted reproduction more effective and cheaper for couples who are desperate to conceive a baby.


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