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Suburban woman using her own struggle with infertility to get other Black women talking

Black woman shares her journey with infertility to help others
Black woman shares her journey with infertility to help others 03:44

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says about 20% of women of child-bearing age who want to have children are not able to. The heartbreak of infertility affects women of all races, but in the Black community, it happens more than we know, and more than we talk about.

We've reached out to experts in maternal and mental health to better explain the challenges Black women are facing.

We start with a suburban mother who shares her own struggles with infertility.

Kenisha and Stacy Leak are the proud parents of Aiden and Carter. They make it look easy, but this couple went through a long, hard struggle to get here.

"It makes me appreciate the boys so much more on a different level," Kenisha said.

Tragedy struck the Leaks twice in their six-year marriage. First, the agony of an ectopic pregnancy, then the heartbreak of a miscarriage.

And after that, almost two excruciating years of infertility.

"I can't believe this is something so common, but yet something not talked about, and especially in the Black community," Kenisha said. "I feel as though, as Black women, we're taught to be strong."

We wanted to explore that notion with Dr. Amanda Adeleye, a reproductive endocrinologist at the University of Chicago.

"I think historically there's just been this concept that Black people are super breeders, and it really is this very negative and, I think, enslaved mentality. It's just not true or correct," she said.

In fact, Black women are twice as likely as white women to experience infertility. One reason; fibroids – small tumors that are usually benign, but often problematic. Experts say as many as 80% of African American women have them.

"We know that there's a genetic predisposition in women who have African blood," said Dr. Michael Thomas, chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Cincinnati. "They can also be the cause of fertility problems, especially if these fibroids land inside cavity of uterus."

That's the physical side of this issue, but we also talked to these doctors about other barriers Black women face in their struggle with infertility. One of those is a lack of Black obstetricians, gynecologists, and doctors specializing in infertility treatments

"When you walk into a clinic and you don't see anyone who looks like you, is this clinic for me? Can this clinic help me? Can this clinic attend to the things that might be different about me? And will I be able to have success here?" said Dr. Crystal Clark, a Northwestern University psychiatrist who specializes in reproductive issues.

She told us that leads many Black women to suffer in silence.

"Although it's quite prevalent, many women aren't talking about it. So there's a sense of, 'I'm alone,' and, 'Who understands what I'm going through?'" she said. "They're thinking, 'Wait a minute, what's wrong with me?'"

Digging into the mental health impact of infertility among Black women 06:06

"I know how alone and how horrible I felt myself, when I was going through it," Kenisha said.

Those feelings led Kenisha to an Instagram page she created, called "melanin mamas."

Her mission is to share her story and encourage other Black women struggling with infertility, miscarriage, and more to share their stories and seek help.

"They talk about all the time it takes a village to raise a child, but it truly takes a village to raise a mother in her journey in motherhood," Kenisha said.

Kenisha says her mission to help is far from over. In fact, it's just beginning.

"My hopes and my dreams is to have a wellness center, or an actual place in the south suburbs, Chicagoland area, for women of color," she said. "If I can do just a little small piece of literally helping another woman, how awesome would that be?"

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