The silence of infertile African-American women

African-American women are just as likely to experience infertility as white women, if not more so, but they often cope with this traumatic issue in silence and isolation, according to a new University of Michigan study.

African-American women also more often feel that infertility hinders their sense of self and gender identity, says the study, published in the journal Psychology of Women Quarterly.

The researchers interviewed 50 African-American women of different socioeconomic backgrounds about infertility and relationships with friends, relatives and doctors. Their ages ranged from 21 to 52 and most were married. Many of the women had college degrees and worked full-time. At some point in their lives, the respondents met the medical definition for infertility.

In describing the difficulties of getting pregnant, 32 percent of the women discussed stereotyped beliefs that equated being a woman with motherhood. Infertility was also infused with religious significance for some women. They believed God intended women to produce children, which heightened their sense of shame. Overall, when black women could not conceive a child, it negatively affected their self-esteem. They saw themselves as abnormal, in part, because they did not see other people like themselves—African-American, female and infertile—in social images.

Virtually all of the women dealt with infertility in silence and isolation, even when a friend or relative knew about their difficulty conceiving.

If you are an African-American woman, please let us know your feelings about this, and share them with others struggling with infertility.

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