During my time as a nursing student, I attended lectures that consistently highlighted a troubling pattern - black women faced a higher risk of various diseases compared to their white counterparts. It seemed like no matter which disease we discussed, black women disproportionately suffered. But it wasn't until medical school that I sat through a lecture that truly shook me to my core: black women were 4-5 times more likely to die during pregnancy and childbirth. The statistic was dropped, and the lecture moved on, but I couldn't just let it slide by unnoticed.
I found myself thinking, "Wait a minute, you can't just speed past that like it's not a big deal." Unfortunately, that's precisely what happened - a shocking statistic brushed aside without explanation.
Fast forward to when I decided to specialize in fertility, and I couldn't help but wonder if black women faced unique challenges when it came to conceiving compared to women of other races. To no one's surprise, the research revealed that among the 7.3 million women in the US experiencing infertility, 11.5% were black women, while 7% were white women.
As I delved deeper into this research, a former co-worker, who I'd met during my time as an ER nurse, reached out to me. She had been following my content on fertility and asked me to be a guest speaker on her show. Her request was to discuss black maternal mortality, a topic I initially hesitated to touch upon due to its heaviness. However, something made me reconsider, and I eventually agreed.
As I prepared for the talk, I stumbled upon that same unsettling black maternal mortality statistic. This time, though, I began to uncover the painful truth hidden behind it.
The statistic read: "Black mothers in the US die at 3-4 times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health." To put it plainly, a black woman is 22% more likely to die from heart disease than a white woman, 71% more likely to die from cervical cancer, but a staggering 243% more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes. It became evident that black maternal death rates had become a silent public health crisis over the last three decades.
That night, I went to bed carrying a heavy heart filled with grief. A few days later, I stumbled upon the work of researchers who had identified racism as the primary driver behind these alarming statistics. While this discovery did little to ease the grief, it unveiled a crucial truth - there was nothing inherently wrong with black women; the issue lay in how our society functions. It became clear that our environment had a profound impact on our health, which intrigued me. I wanted to understand precisely how racism affected the health of black women, leading me down what sometimes felt like an endless rabbit hole of research.
And then, one night, I encountered a lecture by Dr. Jenny Douglas, one of the very few researchers focusing on black women's health. She opened with a quote that struck a chord within me: "Black don't crack is a myth. It does crack, and it's cracking." Dr. Douglas explained that black women were physiologically aging earlier, meaning a 30-year-old black woman could be biologically 35 years old. As she delved into the realities of a black woman's life, everything started to fall into place.
Black women often bear the highest levels of full-time work, family responsibilities, and are more likely to face harassment and bullying at work. These experiences can take a toll on their psychological well-being. As I listened to Dr. Douglas, I realized that my fertility patients mirrored the very women she described. They juggled full-time jobs, often part-time work, pursued education, and provided financial support to their families. Honestly, I saw a lot of myself in her description.
In that moment, it became crystal clear to me that if societal systems were deteriorating our health, the most effective response was to proactively restore it. To be a part of this change, my practice needed to offer treatment strategies that empowered black women to slow down and reverse this accelerated aging by taking control of their minds, spirits, emotions, stress, diet, and lifestyle. These factors have profound positive effects on reproductive health and resilience.
This is the driving force behind my passion for supporting black women in cultivating good health that keeps them resilient and fertile. It's a journey that acknowledges our unique challenges while emphasizing our incredible strength and potential.
So, if you've ever felt that the system was stacked against you, know that there's a path to reclaiming your health and fertility, and I'm here to walk it with you. Together, we can navigate this journey towards a brighter and healthier future.
To aging gracefully both inside & out,
Dr. K. Duga
PS I created a tool to help you get clarity on the underlying issue of your fertility struggles. It's call the Fertility Body Type Quizᴛᴍ. If you haven't taken it already then here's your chance.
Click here to take the quiz for free.