Five Myths About Women of Color, Infertility, and IVF Debunked

We discover just how much this is not a rich, white woman's issue.

One of the greatest misconceptions about infertility and IVF is that it is a “white” problem.  (Shutterstock)

It took eight rounds of in vitro fertilization, 850 injections, and six years of patience for Stacey Edwards-Dunn to conceive her “miracle baby.”

Today, at age 44, Edwards-Dunn and her husband have a healthy 11-month-old girl named Shiloh.

Like many women, she kept her struggles with infertility secret for years. Like many of them, she was ashamed. “We are told that black women aren’t supposed to have these problems, that we are basically baby-making machines,” said Edwards-Dunn, who lives in Chicago and is an ordained minister.

She refers to infertility in the black community as “The Silent Giant.”

Two years ago, after a miscarriage, she decided to go public with her struggles and help other women dealing with the same issues. In 2013, she created Fertility for Colored Girls, a nonprofit support network that recently expanded from Chicago to D.C., Virginia, and Atlanta. Part of their mission is to educate women about their options and to raise money for women who can’t afford in vitro fertilization, which costs an average of $12,400 per cycle.

The taboo around the topic has created so much mystery and misinformation around infertility, Edwards-Dunn says. One of the greatest misconceptions is that infertility and IVF is a “white” problem.

This brings us to our first myth about infertility and in vitro fertilization.

Myth #1: Black women don’t have fertility problems

The stereotype that black women are “baby-making machines” is way off. Married black women (ages 25-44) are nearly twice as likely to have infertility problems than married white women, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stacey Edwards-Dunn struggled with infertility for six years before conceiving her daughter Shiloh. (courtesy of Rev. Stacey Edwards-Dunn)

Myth #2: Mostly older women struggle with infertility and seek medical help

Six percent of all married women in their late 20s are infertile—the same percentage of married women in their early 40s. Though most women who seek infertility treatment are over 34, nearly 13 percent of women in their late 20s receive it, as well.

Myth #3: Only rich women can afford IVF

Several states require health insurance providers to cover some of the cost. Maryland, Louisiana, and New York are among them. Some states even subsidize the cost for low-income families. The CDC reports that about 13 percent of women who use fertility treatments, such as IVF, live below the poverty level.

Myth #4: Only white women get IVF treatments

It’s true that white women are more likely to seek medical help, but they are not alone. Eight percent of black women and 8 percent of Latinas between the ages 25 and 44 have used fertility treatments, compared to 15 percent of white women. No data was available for Asian women in this category.

Myth #5: IVF treatments are on the rise

Actually, the number of women seeking help to get pregnant is going down. In 1995, about 20 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 44 used fertility services, compared to 17 percent in 2010.