Every year in the United States, during the month of February, Black History Month is celebrated. This initiative emerged to highlight the history of black citizens and their contributions to the United States. Also, a reminder of the struggles and triumphs of African Americans throughout United States history.

At Your Fertility Space, we want to highlight the strength of African American women in facing challenges in motherhood and fertility.

Over the years, African American women have faced significant challenges in accessing and receiving quality healthcare related to motherhood and fertility.

Current statistics reveal alarming disparities in fertility rates, pregnancy complications, premature births, and maternal mortality among African American women compared to white women.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) “in 2021, the maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black (subsequently, Black) women was 69.9 deaths per 100,000 live births, 2.6 times the rate for non-Hispanic White (subsequently, White) women.” This is across all income and education levels for Black women.

These challenges are not simply the result of genetics, but are rooted in socio-economic, health factors and racial bias and inequality. Limited access to quality healthcare, lack of health insurance, and residential segregation are just some of the factors contributing to these disparities.

We talked to Cicely Stamper, an African American woman and nurse, about the disparities in healthcare and racial discrimination in medical treatment. Our discussion focused on the challenges faced by African American women in relation to motherhood and fertility.

Inequalities in the healthcare system regarding maternity and fertility for African American women compared to white women in the United States.

According to Stamper, a lot of the root cause is at a policy/law level, but in the United States, we often overlook the ever-pervasive reach of racism. As a country, rooted in racism, many doctors and healthcare professionals bring in their own racial biases and prejudices, and it is reflected in the care they give to patients.

It’s not enough to simply care for patients, we must all learn how to provide culturally sensitive, and aware treatment for the patient populations we work with. Part of doing that is checking our own prejudices and preconceived notions about different groups of people.

Cicely knows what she’s talking about because she has also experienced her own fertility journey.

When Stamper began her journey with secondary infertility, she felt like she had to do a lot of research and advocate for herself in a way she would not have known how to do if she were not already active in the fertility and reproductive health space. She remembers having to be firm in her request for an HSG test, which checks for the patency of fallopian tubes, when she was referred to a fertility specialist. At the time, the specialist’s thought process was that because she had previously had a child, she should not have any issues with her fallopian tubes. Even though they believed it was only a male-factor fertility issue, the results of the test proved that one of her fallopian tubes was indeed blocked.

Stamper personally doesn’t believe the doctor was trying to deny her adequate care, but ultimately, it was a test that revealed pertinent information and was the catalyst for her and her husband to move on to IVF. That was a decision that, if further delayed, she would have possibly been in her late 30s or early 40s just moving on to IVF.

Changes in Society.

Regarding changes in society, Stamper perceives both positive and negative changes. She finds it promising that several different medical professionals and coalitions in the United States government have been formed to combat this public health issue.

However, she highlights that the overturning of Roe v. Wade continues to be an issue for equitable access to contraception and abortion care for all women, particularly Black women and other marginalized birthing people.

Very often in the United States, progress is made in the right direction, only to take two steps backwards.

When asked about the changes needed to address racial disparities in maternity and fertility in the United States, Stamper believes that addressing biases and prejudices in medical school, nursing school, and other professional medical programs is crucial.

We all grow up with different perspectives and preconceived notions about various groups of people, and medical education presents an opportune moment to question and dismantle those beliefs.

Cicely suggests that a simple yet impactful change that can start immediately is for healthcare providers to actively listen to their Black patients. By listening to their symptoms, hardships, and barriers to accessing care, providers can better understand their patients’ needs and concerns.

Black women want to feel heard, understood, and have their concerns taken seriously.

Let’s recognize the importance of addressing these inequalities and strive towards a future where all women, regardless of race, have equal access to quality healthcare and support throughout their journey of motherhood and fertility.