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Infertility not just a problem for the rich

An article published in New York Magazine by Erica Schwiegershausen asks, “Why do we treat infertility like it’s just rich women’s problem?”

Approximately 1 in 6 couples experience infertility. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 11% of women age 15 to 44 have difficulty becoming pregnant or experience miscarriages. Infertility affects all ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Yet the significant costs of fertility treatments is a huge barrier for the many individuals and couples with more limited financial means. Given that most research on the experience of infertility includes only those who access fertility treatments, less is known about the experiences of those who can’t afford treatment.

One exception is Dr. Ann V. Bell, an assistant professor of Sociology at the University of Delaware, who researched the infertility experiences of women from different socioeconomic backgrounds (SES). She found significant differences between the infertility experiences of those of high versus low socioeconomic levels. Those with low SES often don’t recognize their fertility problems as quickly as those with higher SES. This is not surprising, given that many of those in the lower SES group cannot afford medical assistance or testing, and may not seek fertility treatment for financial reasons. Many resort to folk or natural methods to aid conception. Women of low SES may not be able to take time off from work to attend the required appointments for fertility treatment, which can also be a barrier to pursuing treatment.

Some women of low SES shared that they experienced discrimination when accessing medical advice for infertility. Bell suggests that may be linked to social stereotypes about who is fit to mother:

“There’s still this idea that white, wealthy women aren’t having enough kids, and that poor women — and poor women of color especially — are hyperfertile, and having too many kids,” she explained. “It makes it hard to imagine that poor women are having any infertility problems.”

Read more here.

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