Updated: Apr 1, 2021
“NEARLY A QUARTER OF BLACK WOMEN BETWEEN 18 AND 30 HAVE FIBROIDS COMPARED TO ABOUT 6% OF WHITE WOMEN, ACCORDING TO SOME NATIONAL ESTIMATES. BY AGE 35, THAT NUMBER INCREASES TO 60%. BLACK WOMEN ARE ALSO TWO TO THREE TIMES MORE LIKELY TO HAVE RECURRING FIBROIDS OR SUFFER FROM COMPLICATIONS.”
Despite the staggering statistics demonstrating the public health crisis of gynecological disease, there has been very little public policy or legislation to address or acknowledge the severity of this issue. Despite the risks posed to quality of life, gynecological diseases result in severe economic losses and affects a significant portion of the US population:
“IN 2018, THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH (NIH) BUDGETED AN ESTIMATED $7 MILLION FOR ENDOMETRIOSIS RESEARCH, COMPARED TO BREAST CANCER RESEARCH AT $755 MILLION..ENDOMETRIOSIS AFFECTS AN ESTIMATED SEVEN MILLION AMERICAN WOMEN..AND CAUSES AN ESTIMATED $22 BILLION ANNUALLY IN LOST PRODUCTIVITY…THE DISABILITY EVALUATION UNDER SOCIAL SECURITY..DOES NOT INCLUDE ENDOMETRIOSIS AS A DISABILITY...”
The cheaper, faster, and more cost-effective solution to address gynecological disease is usually a hysterectomy, which many women of color may be unnecessarily recommended to have. Alternatively, many black women may choose to suffer through a lifetime of pain due to general mistrust of the US medical system, keeping in mind the treatment of Henrietta Lacks and the Tuskegee Airmen.
“AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN DIAGNOSED WITH FIBROIDS ARE TWICE AS LIKELY TO HAVE A HYSTERECTOMY AS CAUCASIAN WOMEN. AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN IN THIS STUDY WERE MORE SUSPECT OF DOCTORS’ INITIAL OFFERS OF HYSTERECTOMIES THAN EUROPEAN AMERICAN WOMEN, WITH THE FORMER GROUP OF INTERVIEWEES STILL FEARING A LEGACY OF RACIAL-ETHNIC DISCRIMINATION WITHIN MEDICAL INSTITUTIONS...”
More recently, it was reported that a high number of unnecessary hysterectomies were being performed against Hispanic women at an ICE facility, resulting in the sterilization of various migrant women of color. It was mentioned that many of these victims spoke very little English and were unaware of what they were consenting to or received the wrong treatment. It is unclear what the motivation was behind performing these procedures, but the damage done to these women is irreversible. Given their limited citizenship status, their recourse in the near term is questionable. On a broader scale, there is limited insurance coverage for fertility services. The out-of-pocket costs and high deductibles can have financially devastating impacts for an African-American woman that is statistically paid cents on the dollar compared to whites and is more likely to be single or the sole head of household.
“A CYCLE OF IVF COSTS EACH PATIENT APPROXIMATELY $23,000. EGG FREEZING IS CLOSER TO $17,000. THE AVERAGE IVF PATIENT WILL CYCLE MULTIPLE TIMES (2.3 - 2.7X), WHICH BRINGS THE ACTUAL COST CLOSER TO $50,000. MORE THAN 400 US COMPANIES OFFER BENEFITS FOR FERTILITY TREATMENTS…EVEN WITH SOME EMPLOYERS ADDING SUCH (INSURANCE) BENEFITS, THE MAJORITY OF IVF PATIENTS TREATED LAST YEAR PAID FOR ALL OR SOME OF THEIR TREATMENT OUT-OF-POCKET.”
Even black women of means who can afford to pay for fertility services out of pocket may find themselves disadvantaged. Black women and/or men may encounter difficulty obtaining African American donor eggs in the US, limiting their options to adopt or have a mixed-race child. A US fertility clinic stated they have a shortage of African-American eggs and receive negative feedback after running ads to attract black donors, forcing them to take the ads down: