When we speak about conception and contraception we don’t speak enough about the health issues plaguing Black women such as endometriosis.
March Is National Endometriosis Awareness Month
For years we have heard and seen issues of inequality in our healthcare system and no one is more impacted than Black women. Endometriosis impacts about 200 million women worldwide. Endometriosis is when endometrial tissue grows on your ovaries, bowel, and tissues lining your pelvis. Some common symptoms include painful periods as well as infertility.
At times when Black women seek any form of medical attention and raise concerns around pain or infertility, they tend to be dismissed. Infertility affects at least 12 percent of women during childbearing age and studies suggest this number doubles for Black women in the US. However, while more than 20 percent of Black women may experience infertility, only 8 percent of them seek medical help to get pregnant compared to 15 percent of White women according to the CDC. This must change now or we will continue to be subject to high levels of at-risk pregnancies and misdiagnosis for infertility.
In 2020, after working for over a year with the help of Congresswoman Abby Finkenauer (IA-01), an amendment was introduced to congress according to endofound.org. This amendment is allowing the National Institutes of Health to allocate $26 million to endometriosis research in 2021. This is double the amount previously spent on this type of research. The congresswoman who was diagnosed as a teenager has been a champion for change to support women’s health in the capital.
Endometriosis regularly goes undiagnosed as the symptoms can show up as pelvic pain, heavy periods, and painful intercourse. As it relates to Black women we are less likely to seek proper medical attention as a result of the systematic racial issues dealt with in the local hospitals or doctors’ offices. All of which can be misdiagnosed as studies show Black people are believed to have a higher threshold for pain. The cause of endometriosis is still unknown but the doubling of research dollars is a step in the right direction.
Too often we are not having the necessary conversations within our community about the risk and health issues faced in an effort to bear children. Only recently, with the release of Michelle Obama’s Becoming, was light really shed on what Black women deal with when family planning.
If we take it one step further, the inability to conceive and the shame surrounding it impedes the conversation in our communities. Many Black women are walking around with a silent shame and don’t have real answers regarding their struggle to have children. As Black women are disproportionately discriminated against in the healthcare system yet majorly impacted by its shortcomings.
May this new spotlight placed on racial inequality be the necessary tool we need to make changes to a system so insistent upon turning a blind eye to Black women regardless of their financial status. Serena Williams is a prime example to illustrate finances isn’t the key issue for the level of service received by physicians. Williams’ near-death experience after the birth of her daughter in 2017 confirms that we must be our own advocates during the childbearing process.
May this new year and new amendment bring new findings around the cause and a cure for endometriosis. I encourage you to share your stories and seek physicians invested in your health and well-being.