Fertility challenges often faced by the Hispanic community are rarely discussed in the U.S., despite the birth rate for Hispanic women plummeting by 31% from 2007 to 2017—compared to 5% and 11% declines for White and Black women, respectively. More young, American-born Hispanic women are postponing childbirth to prioritize their education and careers. And as women wait longer to start a family, the likelihood of experiencing fertility challenges increases, especially among the Hispanic community, in which fertility challenges may be more prevalent due to certain common medical conditions.
However, due to a variety of cultural and societal factors, including increased stigma surrounding infertility and barriers to accessing care, Hispanic women are less likely to pursue or receive fertility treatments than non-Hispanic White women.
BIPOC females (Black, indigenous and people of color) are 7-18X more likely to be concerned about the social stigma of fertility than White women. The long-held stereotype that Hispanic women are naturally very fertile and the thought of sex, sexuality, and women’s bodies as taboo subjects compound the stigmas regarding fertility and reproductive health within the Hispanic community. Additionally, religious views emphasizing the importance of procreation, while simultaneously imputing the ability to get pregnant to “God’s will,” can discourage many from pursuing fertility treatment. Some women may avoid nontraditional methods of conception to honor their personal beliefs, while others worry about experiencing shame or judgment—many Latinx women even report difficulty accepting the term “infertility,”—all of which limits awareness of the many options available for family-building.
Increased Risk for Complex Health Conditions
Across the U.S., members of ethnic minority groups may be more prone to certain health conditions. In fact, women of Hispanic heritage are more at risk for PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS is one of the most common causes of female fertility challenges and is linked to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, hormone imbalances, and problems with ovulation—all conditions that can negatively impact female fertility—and are cited to be more prevalent in the Hispanic community.
Disparities in Access to Care
Hispanic women are underrepresented in the population receiving fertility treatment; they are less likely to seek out support, and, even after an evaluation, are less likely to receive fertility care. Beyond the cultural factors above, economic issues and lack of health insurance create financial hurdles to pursuing treatment, while geographic and language barriers make it more difficult to access a provider. Research carried out in Illinois, which mandates insurance coverage for fertility treatment, found that Hispanic women traveled twice as far as White or Black women to seek fertility care. They also reported trepidation about using reproductive technology, citing greater ethical concerns and worries about side effects.
A Study of Fertility Care Among the Hispanic Community
A study at a large teaching hospital of low-income Latinx immigrants who sought fertility treatment found four major barriers to treatment: communication, provider continuity, bureaucracy, and accessibility.
- Language and communication styles were critical barriers to care, as most physicians or other providers were not fluent in Spanish, and there was often a lengthy wait for a translator. Patients often described their symptoms as a story of their experience, whereas doctors were pushing to complete a medical history as quickly as possible to stay on schedule, often making patients feel the physicians were not caring or attentive.
- Lack of provider continuity was a major challenge in the teaching hospital. Given care was provided by multiple residents and fellows supervised by a reproductive endocrinologist, patients saw multiple physicians over time as shifts changed.
- Bureaucratic barriers involved appointment scheduling and delays, availability of testing, and lengthy waits once patients arrived for their appointments.
- Accessibility issues related to affordability and availability of care.
Improving communication methods, fostering a better understanding of cultural differences, and facilitating a more simplified path to treatment will continue to be important considerations in making family-building more attainable for all who wish to become a parent.
Closing the Gap to Fertility Care
WIN increases access to fertility treatments for patients of all backgrounds through the diversity and expertise of its provider network and Nurse Care Advocates. 40% of WIN’s Nurse Care Advocates identify as BIPOC, ensuring patients receive guidance, education, and support from others who understand their unique experience and can offer deep expertise through every step on their path to parenthood. WIN’s vast national provider network allows for convenient access to treatment, including specialists who are specialized in treating PCOS and other health conditions that disproportionately affect the BIPOC community. WIN matches patients with providers that are right for their unique needs, taking into account a variety of factors such as geographical location and language. In fact, many providers in the WIN network speak Spanish or have fluent Spanish speakers on their staff. WIN also provides translation services and communications materials in several languages, including the WIN Companion app which is available in Spanish.
WIN’s market-leading solution for BIPOC fertility and family building care and support, designed to bridge the gap in BIPOC care and meet the needs of diverse workforces, ultimately helping employers boost recruitment and retention, increase productivity and performance, and realize cost savings. Contact us to learn more.