National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) is a federally recognized health observance that empowers those with infertility to share their stories and connect with a community that understands their experience. Founded in 1989 by RESOLVE, an organization with the mission of finding resolution for all people challenged in their family building journeys, NIAW is an opportunity to provide support and guidance to those experiencing infertility, advocate for public awareness of infertility, and educate policymakers on the impact of infertility within their communities. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), infertility is a global health issue affecting 1 in 6 people worldwide. At 360Girls&Women®, we not only recognize the challenges that individuals and families experiencing infertility face but, the race-related disparities in fertility and maternal health that black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) continue to face. In fact, research suggests black women have twice the odds of experiencing infertility compared to white women even after adjusting the data for socioeconomic differences, pregnancy intent, and risk factors of infertility. This year, we celebrate National Infertility Awareness Week by honoring the experience of BIPOC with infertility and offering culturally informed tips to support overall fertility health.
Support Your Fertility. Embrace Your Heritage.
Infertility is linked to a wide variety of factors including overexposure to certain toxins like endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), hormonal or ovulatory disorders, physical abnormalities, injuries, and chronic health conditions like obesity, hypertension, PCOS, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids. Though visiting a fertility specialist is the best way to receive a thorough fertility evaluation and personalized care plan, research shows you can support of your fertility and overall wellness right now with healthy lifestyle choices. Eating a nutrient-dense, plant-forward fertility diet containing brightly colored fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, probiotic-rich fermented foods and beverages, whole grains, and plant-based protein like nuts, seeds, and legumes (beans, lentils and peas) have been shown to support fertility. Reduced consumption of refined carbohydrates, added sugar, saturated fats, and highly processed foods is also known to support fertility by improving hormonal balance, blood sugar control, and egg quality in women. Fertility-supporting nutrition aligns with the traditional cuisine of many BIPOC, which includes healthy plant foods like fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, seeds, and beans. The roots, stems, leaves, flowers, and other parts of certain plants have been used in folk medicine for centuries to improve fertility. Research highlights certain medicinal plants like ashwagandha, and turmeric for their ability to improve sexual function, fertility, and maternal health outcomes.
Exercise is another great way to support the overall health of your hormones, periods, and fertility. Get moving and embrace your heritage with traditional dance like Brazilian Samba or Haitian Yanvalou. Many studios and fitness centers also host culturally inspired group fitness classes like Zumba, Bhangra, Soca, and Afrobeat. Moderate-intensity walking, jogging, or lifting weight along with cultural music from your country or in your language can work to support your health goals and celebrate your culture.
Find Culturally Informed Infertility Support
Racial disparities in infertility are not limited to the diagnosis of the condition itself but includes race-related issues with access to infertility treatment and overall health care. BIPOC women take longer to seek treatment and are less likely to be referred to fertility specialists. Additionally, the high cost of fertility treatment hinder many BIPOC women from receiving the assistance they need during their family forming journeys. Many also report cultural and language challenges when seeking fertility care.
Though BIPOC fertility specialists are still a minority (~20% according to a recent study), there are resources available to connect you with family building professionals that can support you on your fertility journey with a culturally informed approach. The same can be said of BIPOC fitness professionals, dietitians, and mental health professionals that can work together for your fertility and overall health.
Remove the Stigma of Infertility
Many women with infertility can experience feelings of shame, sadness, disappointment, and isolation. Stigma around infertility stemming from familial pressures, cultural and/or religious expectations, and racial prejudice make it even harder for some to seek infertility treatment or talk about their experience. Know that if you are experiencing infertility, you are not alone! If you are looking for a community of women who understand you, there are several BIPOC founded organizations that can offer support. Here are a few:
You don’t have to do it alone! 360Girls&Women®LLC offers comprehensive support for women’s health and fertility including herbal therapies, mind-body techniques, targeted nutrition and more. Book an appointment today with our Holistic, Women’s Health Plant-Based Dietitian and Wellness Practitioner Sue-Ellen Anderson-Haynes for personalized, culturally relevant guidance for your unique fertility needs.