Study: Black Women Suffer Infertility in Isolation

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A new study by the University of Michigan is among the first known to focus exclusively on African-American women and infertility. Most research on infertility has been centered around white couples seeking medical interventions.

Researches interviewed 50 Black women ages 21 to 52. The women studied came from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Most were married and many had college degrees and worked full time. Each woman met the medical definition for infertility, not being able to get pregnant after a year of regular, unprotected sex.  Researchers questioned the women about infertility and relationships with friends, relatives, and doctors.

32 percent of the women studied expressed beliefs that equated womanhood with motherhood. A respondent told researchers, "Emotionally, I felt that I was not complete, because I had not had a child. I didn't feel like I was a complete woman," and "It (having no biological children) would label you as a failure."

Almost all of the women expressed that they dealt with infertility in isolation and silence. Researchers noted that many women stayed silent about infertility because discussing it did not elicit sympathy or empathy from friends or family. The women interviewed also thought infertility was not as emotionally painful for their husbands and partners.

"Infertile African-American women are indeed hidden from public view," said the study's lead author, Rosario Ceballo, a U-M professor of psychology and women's studies.

Read more on the study here.