Black women are disproportionately affected by infertility. Reproductive experts say it's not an issue of genetic health, but rather structural racism that has compounded for decades.
Danielle Wade has experienced this firsthand, and now she's sharing her journey.
"I found it to be very helpful and very therapeutic, actually, just talking about it because hiding that part of my life and just posting these beautiful photos in beautiful clothes and perfect makeup just didn't seem as genuine when I was struggling going through this process of trying to conceive," Wade said.
Wade is a lifestyle blogger and content creator who became well-known on Instagram for her posts about fashion and beauty products. But in the past four years, her feed has evolved. Now she's known as a woman who helps other women thrive during infertility.
"And I've learned more people in my personal life have gone through infertility because I started talking about it," Wade said.
She quickly realized there weren't many other women who look like her being open about infertility, and she wanted other Black women trying to conceive to know they're not alone.
"Black women tend to report infertility issues at a higher rate than white women or non-Hispanic women," Wade said. "However, they're also the least likely to be able to access the care and treatment that they require to support and assist them in that process of going from having infertility to actually being able to successfully get pregnant.”
Dr. Yashica Robinson is an OB-GYN and the owner of Alabama Women's Wellness Center. She says there are many reasons disparities exist for Black women facing infertility.
"People of color are experiencing fertility at two times the rate of their white counterparts — the environmental stressors we know that plays a significant role in how our bodies function and our ability to carry our pregnancies to term, other contributing factors would be pre-existing medical conditions, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and our ability to access health care and optimize these health conditions prior to pregnancy," Dr. Robinson said.
Infertility treatments are also very expensive, making them difficult to access.
"For those of us who don't have private insurance and we obtain our insurance through the government, then it doesn't cover those treatments at all," Dr. Robinson said.
Dr. Robinson says physicians won’t even offer a treatment as an option if they don’t feel it’s accessible to the patient, and she says that assumption is sometimes made just through racial biases.
Lilly Marcelin is the founder and executive director of Resilient Sisterhood Project, an education and advocacy nonprofit that aims to empower women of African descent regarding common, but rarely discussed, diseases of the reproductive system that disproportionately affect them.
"So if you go on our website, you’ll find a lot of well-researched information about complications with fibroids, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, breast cancer, cervical cancer, infertility," Marcelin said.
She says she felt inspired to create the nonprofit after talking with many Black women about their experience with reproductive health issues and seeking care.
"Some of them revealed to me that as soon as they stepped in, just the way that they were received or looked at, they felt that somehow there was an assumption about ... can they afford to pay?" Marcelin said.
That's the reason Wade searched for a Black physician.
"I actually was specifically trying to find a Black fertility doctor, male or female, just kind of wanted to see if I could get connected with someone who looked like me, maybe better understood my health history and what specific experiences I was having in this process, dealing with health care, dealing with infertility, and I had no luck with that," Wade said.
Wade is currently in her first round of in-vitro fertilization. It's the next step for her after four years of trying other methods, and she plans to continue being transparent with her Instagram followers about her exhausting journey of trying to conceive.
"I want it to be normal to talk about loss when it comes to infertility and miscarriages and stillbirths," Wade said. "I want it to be normal to talk about all the creative ways you have available to you to have babies. I want it to be normal for all insurances to cover all infertility treatment."