Black to Life…for a healthier you – Infertility and the African-American family
For Dr. Eva Littman of Red Rock Fertility Center Las Vegas, the personal touch is one of the keys to good medicine. “I think it is very important to know your physician, because I came from a small city where everyone knew each other,” said the New Bern, N.C., native. “That is what we strive to do at my practice.”
In an interview with Black Image, the Duke University Medical School graduate answered questions about infertility, its effects on African-American families and how a growing number of black women are choosing to become mothers before finding their desired mates.
What are some of the signs of infertility?
Someone who does not have a period every month — this means they are not ovulating. Having premature menopause symptoms might be another reason. Some women suffer from endometriosis, where they have scar tissue or have suffered from infections, which causes their tubes not to be functional.
What are some of the signs of male infertility?
I find that there is a high rate of male infertility as well. Some males might suffer from low production of a hormone called testosterone, and that means that their testicles are underproducing as well. I believe it has a lot to do with the environment. Men are very sensitive to the environment and exposure to certain chemicals that might be found in something as simple as a plastic bottle. And this can, in some men, reduce a sperm count that normally generates every 72 days.
Do African-Americans have more issues of infertility than the majority of the population?
I think that African Americans don’t seek treatment as much as the majority of the population for infertility. Therefore, this covers up the fact that we are just as infertile as the rest of the population.
Are there any findings that show higher rates of procreation in some ethnic groups as opposed to others?
I think this is a socioeconomic issue more than a health issue. Some people can afford to eat organically — free of pesticides and other [substances] that can affect reproduction. Toxic hormones and antibiotics found in some processed meats can disrupt reproduction. There are a lot more people who need infertility treatment than those who can afford it. Also, obesity can be a cause of infertility, because large body mass index holds a greater amount of estrogen — and estrogen is the same hormone that is in birth control pills. So, it can inhibit ovulation and prevent pregnancy.
What are your thoughts on reports that the black family is disappearing, and that the population is reduced?
There are a lot of reasons for this, and we should keep in mind that there is a disproportionate ratio of black females to black males. I see a lot of black females coming into my office to inquire about sperm donors because they haven’t found that black man to build a family with. Sometimes they wait into later ages, thinking that man is coming along. Some wait until they are 41 years of age and their biological clock is ticking away, and then they consider a sperm donor. I see a lot of this. I suggest to women between 27 and 37 years of age to explore the option of freezing their eggs and preserving their fertility while also keeping that window open for that man who may or may not come along.
Do you see many same-sex partners trying to conceive a baby?
Yes, I do. We will assist them with sperm donation and carrier. In the case of two males trying to have a baby, we mix the sperm together to make the child — so we don’t know who the sperm came from that produced the desired pregnancy.
What diseases should African-Americans be aware of when trying to have a baby?
African-Americans should be aware of inherited diseases such as diabetes and blood clotting issues.
What is the optimum age for a woman to consider having a baby?
Between the ages of 25 to 27 years of age is a good time to conceive a child. Those women who are 45 and 50 years of age still can carry a baby, but usually look for an egg donation.