Over the last few decades, the social stigma surrounding infertility is finally being eroded. One of the key drivers to erode the stigma is social media. The platforms easily allow people to access news, video content and citizen journalism of blogs, comments and forums.
However, this media content doesn’t always portray the voices Black women impacted by infertility. In response to this glaring lack of representation, Ade Osinubi filmed and produced a documentary series, Black Motherhood Through the Lens. This highlights four Black women navigating the reproductive health care system in the US.
Ade Osinubi, Documentary Filmmaker, Photographer and third-year Medical Student
Ade, from Providence in Rhode Island, USA, is a documentary filmmaker, photographer and a third-year medical student. Her media work focuses on sharing the stories of minority populations that often go untold. Ade said, “Black Motherhood Through the Lens is about four Black women’s experiences navigating the reproductive and maternal healthcare system from conception to postpartum. The women in this series have experienced miscarriage, lack of access to infertility care, fears about childbirth and postpartum depression.”
This is important because there is a clear racial disparity in fertility treatment in the US. Quite simply, Black women access fertility treatment at lower numbers. For instance, a US National Health Statistics study found that only 8% of Black women access medical care for fertility-related concerns compared with 15% of white women.
12% of Black women face infertility
Yet Black women have a higher need for these services. According to the Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 12% of Black women will have infertility compared with 7% of White women. The driving force behind these disparities is multifold and rooted in social, economic and political factors.
The USA has no national health service, this means people without private health insurance are excluded from fertility treatment unless they have their own private means to pay for treatment.
As one of the women featured Shaylene said, “A lot of people talk about IVF and going to specialists, but that was not on the table for us because we had no insurance. We were paying out of pocket for all of the treatments and blood tests, which meant that we ate ramen noodles instead of good food.”
Ade commented on this bleak statement. “Black women face a multitude of disparities from conception to postpartum. These disparities are not due to biological differences, but they are attributed to the systemic bias and inequalities that continue to plague the United States.”
Even for those who have some form of insurance, accessing fertility services can still pose a major challenge for Black women. A higher proportion of Black women use Medicaid, the federal insurance system, where there is no provision for fertility treatment.
But cost is not the only thing keeping Black women from fertility treatment. It’s impossible to ignore the role of social factors and cultural perceptions surrounding infertility. Ijeoma, another woman featured said, “Black women are presented as hypersexual, we get pregnant like this; we’re welfare queens. There’s this perception of an African woman having 10 kids and being hyper fertile. That can be difficult to push back against if you are struggling to get pregnant.”
Pursuing the dream of motherhood
Black Motherhood Through the Lens explores the narratives of four women: Shaylene, Ijeoma, Shannon and Jai-Me. They tell their stories of miscarriage, lack of access to infertility care, fears about childbirth, and postpartum depression. They explain how, despite these challenges, they boldly pursued their dreams of Black motherhood.
Although a young woman, Ade is no stranger to making challenging documentaries. At the age of 16, she travelled to Ethiopia to co-produce her first documentary. Since then, she’s produced several films educating the public about various health topics in an accessible way. She is explicit about the mission she has set out to achieve with Black Motherhood Through the Lens. “This documentary aims to shed light on the experiences that Black Women face within reproductive healthcare and to diversify media representation about fertility.”
Watch the trailer below.