Audrey Quiñones is the co-host of Infertilidad Latina Podcast.
Infertility is a sensitive topic in our community due to cultural and societal norms that strongly emphasize family and children. The pressure to have children can lead to feelings of shame for those who are struggling with infertility. Likewise, traditional beliefs and misconceptions surrounding infertility may perpetuate stigmatization and misunderstandings. A University of California-San Francisco 2006 study found that Latinas had difficulty accepting the term “infertile” because they perceived it to indicate a hopeless situation. These stigmas can collectively lead to silence surrounding infertility leaving Latinas to struggle alone.
National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) is crucial to take this opportunity for awareness to emphasize the availability of resources for infertility care within the Latinx community. While resources for our community, such as non-profit organizations, online resources, fertility clinics, and providers have increased, access to care can still be challenging due to factors like immigration status, socioeconomic status, geographic location, and language barriers.
RESOLVE, a non-profit organization, has supported those struggling with infertility since 1979 and established the NIAW movement in 1989. Recently, they collaborated with the Infertilidad Latina Podcast to translate resources into Spanish, including personal stories and toolkits. This move works toward closing the gap since language barriers can make it difficult for non-English speakers to access quality care. The increase in the availability of Spanish resources online is a significant milestone as it ensures fairness and equal access to healthcare resources for our community. Having information that can be easily understood and related to in your language can help reduce the stigma and isolation surrounding infertility.
But language barriers aside, another factor that perpetuates a silence on this topic is religion and conservative beliefs. In the Latinx community, Catholicism’s stronghold among older generations makes conversations around this topic difficult though that is changing with more Latinxs not affiliating with a religion. However, discussing infertility struggles with older generations remains difficult as intrusive questions are common at family gatherings, making it harder to openly discusses infertility journeys. Despite the saying, “Nadie sabe lo que hay en la hoya, mas que el que la menea” (No one knows what is in the pot, only who stirs it), insensitive comments and questions about infertility can still be hurtful and challenging to navigate.
Beyond the cultural factors, there are also financial burdens that can make the process that much more stressful and difficult. Infertility treatments come with high costs that pose a significant barrier for those who are uninsured or underinsured. The uninsured rate for Latinxs is disproportionately high, more than double that of white-non Latinxs, and among the highest in the nation at 17.7 percent, according to data from the American Community Survey conducted by the Census Bureau. Medicaid programs in some states may not cover artificial insemination or In-vitro fertilization (IVF) fertility treatments, and state infertility insurance laws may not bind self-insured employers. The cost of IVF, for example, can range from $15,000 to $30,000, and that’s for a single cycle with no guarantee that it’ll work.
There are some companies such as Starbucks, Amazon, Lowe’s Home Improvement, and Bank of America that offer limited fertility coverage, however, obtaining such job opportunities could be limited for many Latinx individuals. Despite embryo adoption potentially being a more cost-effective option at $2,500 to $4,000, the process is still largely unattainable for the community. Finding an embryo matching the intended parent’s ethnic background can be a challenge. Donor conception involves seeking donor eggs or sperm, and surrogacy comes with additional costs and a significant stigma that can make it hard for many to be open with their loved ones about their experiences.
Latinxs seeking fertility treatments may face financial barriers and linguistic and cultural communication challenges with their healthcare providers, especially those in the low-income population. Unfortunately, some clinics may make assumptions about a patient’s financial situation based on their skin color or even just their last name, leading to inadequate or even discriminatory care.
Jasmine Higgins from Infertilidad Latina opened up about how she was automatically scheduled for a hysteroscopy procedure without anesthesia because her clinic assumed she could not afford it. As a white Latina myself, the question of having the procedure without anesthesia was asked for scheduling purposes. These experiences are unfair and highlight just one example of unequal treatment Latinas and women of color can face.
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With more and more women choosing to have children later in life, fertility treatments often come later in life which is then influenced by a decline in fertility that comes in the late 30s. When faced with my first miscarriage in 2018, I felt lost and alone, struggling to make sense of my deep desire to have a child and the devastating reality of my loss. It wasn’t until I found a community of like-minded individuals on social media that I began to feel seen and heard, surrounded by individuals who understood the unique challenges of infertility and the journey to conception.
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Despite five years of actively trying with a team of reproductive specialists, six rounds of IVF, and a surrogacy journey that began in 2020 in Ukraine, five surrogates, failed transfers, and more losses, the road to my son’s birth during the war in Ukraine was not without its obstacles. However, I found the strength to persist by seeking mental health support and connecting with others who shared my experience. A supportive community throughout this process can make a major difference and aid in the process of grieving as well.
While the journey to parenthood may take many forms, there is no one “right” path. Some may end their journey as child-free (not by choice), while others may continue to explore alternative options. The words “As long as you have the will, you will find the way” were a guiding light, reminding me that my dreams were within reach as long as I continued to pursue them. It’s okay for your vision of your life to evolve and change, and it’s essential to surround yourself with a supportive community that embraces your journey, wherever it may lead.