May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. In honor of this, and because we are an Asian egg donation agency, this week we have […]

May 6, 2021 // Evan Billups // No Comments //

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. In honor of this, and because we are an Asian egg donation agency, this week we have a blog post discussing infertility in regards to the Asian experience specifically.

Additionally, here is our post regarding the recent anti-Asian violence in America if you missed it, and some resources (under anti-Asian violence resources).

The Issue
Infertility is something experienced by women across race and ethnic lines, but it is somehow discussed far less in the Asian/Asian American community. 

According to a 2007 study co-authored by Dr. Victor Fujimoto (director of the IVF program at UC San Francisco), couples and women of East Asian descent wait significantly longer before seeking medical help for infertility. Over 40% of the study’s Asian American patients delayed talking to a doctor for more than 2 years after their problem began.

Why it can be hard to talk about
In the Asian American community, there is a culture of not talking as openly as say, white families, about things. Of course, this is a broad generalization, but culturally Asian Americans do not discuss “touchy” subjects (such as mental health, racism, and yes, infertility) as openly as white families might. This is something we have seen in conversations surrounding the recent anti-Asian violence and it is something that is certainly prevalent in the fertility world as well.

Amongst the Asian community, inter-generational conversations surrounding sex are often non-existent. Journalist Annie Kuo remembers that in trying to broach the subject with her parents, they “always seem embarrassed, annoyed, or mad”. With this in mind, it is not surprising that any talk surrounding inability to conceive through sex is often off-limits. The lack of discussion amongst family and friends can leave Asian women going through this experience feeling isolated, stressed, and/or ashamed.

There is also the matter of cultural expectations. In Asian-American communities, there is often a lot of value placed in having children and continuing the family line. The pressure is often placed on the woman particularly to have a son. When issues with infertility arise, the woman often bears the brunt of the shame and embarrassment, even though it is not necessarily her “fault”. Sometimes infertility issues can be exacerbated by well-meaning, but unhelpful comments from ignorant friends and family

This was documented in the popular Netflix reality series, Bling Empire. In the series, there is tension between philanthropist and businesswoman Christine Chiu and her husband, plastic surgeon Gabriel, over whether or not to have another child. Gabriel wants another one, but Christine is hesitant after her experience with their first son, Baby G. Christine shares how she had to undergo IVF treatment in order to have her son and was shamed by her in-laws. However, it is later revealed that in fact, it was Gabriel who struggled with infertility, but that Christine took the fall for him so that his parents wouldn’t be upset with him.

The Chiu’s situation is an example of the onus and blame being placed on the woman, when she is not actually at fault. It is also an example of the acute pressure in the Asian community to have children.

Celebrities and the Media
Having public figures (like Christine Chiu) speak up in the media helps to de-stigmatize these topics and prompt valuable conversations. Unfortunately, there are not many examples of Asian celebrities who have spoken out about infertility.

One person who has is Chrissy Teigen, a half-Thai model, cookbook author, and TV host. Teigen is the wife of singer John Legend and has shared her experience with IVF treatment. Teigen describes the emotional hardships she encountered: “Emotionally, it could be really hard. When you have these high-highs and low-lows, and you’re like, cuckoo pants. You don’t want to get your hopes up, but of course, you do.”

Additionally, Shay Mitchell (actress from Pretty Little Liars) and Ali Wong (comedian who rose to prominence with her Netflix Special Baby Cobra) have both publicly talked about having miscarriages.

Our Mission at AsiaWest
Another problem is there are simply fewer donor options for Asians. For a long time, one was hard-pressed to find any Asian egg donors on any database at any egg donation agency. This hole in the market was why AsiaWest came to be. Our team strongly believes that everyone deserves the chance to build a family, regardless of race/ethnicity. It is important to us that intended families, especially those who’ve previously had limited possibilities, have many, fantastic options available to them. That is why we work so hard to carefully screen our potential donors, to ensure that our clients have the best experience possible. 

AsiaWest provides guidance, choices, and information for our intended families so that you can hopefully find your perfect donor match. We welcome intended families of diverse backgrounds. While we know that this path is not always easy, and that it can be particularly difficult to talk about if you come from an Asian background, we are here to help and support you through the whole journey.

Sources/Further Reading & Resources
Giving Voice to the Quiet: Sounding the Alarm for Asian Americans with Infertility (Annie Kuo)

 Study: “Asian ethnicity is associated with longer duration of infertility and decreased pregnancy rates following intrauterine insemination (IUI)”

Resolve (infertility and advocacy support group)

Chrissy Teigen Opens Up About Fertility Struggles (Today Magazine)

Chrissy Teigen Self Magazine story

Shay Mitchell Reveals She Had a Miscarriage in 2018 (Harper’s Bazaar)

Ali Wong Opens Up About Her Miscarriage (Health)

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