The Fertility Show, London, 1-3 November 2019
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_143980

Podcast Review: Egg freezing, fertility and IVF (Sista Collective, BBC Radio 5 Live)

22 July 2019
Appeared in BioNews 1007

The Sista Collective is the 'BBC's first homegrown podcast led and hosted by black British women'. This podcast was created by Jessie Aru-Phillips who is a journalist for BBC Radio 5 Live with hopes of exploring what it means to be a woman of colour living in the UK today.

In this final episode of season two, the lead presenter, Jessie, is joined by TV presenter Scarlett Douglas and model Eunice Olumide MBE to discuss egg freezing, fertility and IVF through the lens of women of colour.

At the beginning of this episode, each of the hosts gave their thoughts about fertility when growing up, and all of them seem to have had pretty conservative backgrounds with the focus on preventing pregnancy. 

Jessie made the point that 'there is a lot of conversation and education around preventing getting pregnant but there is not enough conversation around when your fertility stops'. 

Following on from this, Eunice felt that a lot of the current research concerning how long women have to conceive or the time frame in which eggs begin to deteriorate is based on Caucasian women and she wondered if the findings are applicable to black women. 

Scarlett then described the pressure she felt about being single in her early 30s, wanting to continue soaring in her career, yet also wanting a family. She felt that she still has time but she knows people around the same age that are starting to freeze their eggs. 
Whereas Eunice felt that if she was not able to have a child on time then she would adopt instead of freezing her eggs.  She said she respected people using assisted reproductive technologies but felt it would be better if those people adopted 'some of the millions and millions of displaced children on the planet'. 

Less than 10 minutes into the episode some very interesting issues had been raised. I liked the fact that they did not dance around the topic, they rather dug straight into it and each of the hosts spoke their truths on the issues at hand. 

The hosts were then joined by singer, TV presenter and actress, Jamelia Niela Davis. Jamelia was very open and honest about her style of parenting when it comes to discussing women's health and fertility with her teenage daughters.
She felt it was important to have 'difficult' conversations with her girls and said that nothing was off-limits. In fact, her daughter (17 at the time) was her birthing partner during her latest pregnancy. She also expressed some of the challenges that she had when she was pregnant with her youngest daughter. Early on in her pregnancy, she kept bleeding and her waters broke at just 23 weeks.

Overall, Jamelia was very outspoken about her experience and she is advocating for women to speak up more about their experiences. 

During the next segment of this episode, the hosts went through some enlightening statistics concerning the fertility of black women. A couple that stood out to me in particular were:

1.    Infertility affects at least 12 percent of all women up to the age of 44, and studies suggest black women may be almost twice as likely to experience infertility as white women.

2.    Black women were more than twice as likely as white women to say that they wouldn't feel comfortable talking about their fertility issues with friends, family, a partner, their doctor, or even a support group.

These results were collected by Women's Health and Oprah magazines who surveyed over 1000 women. Despite the fact that black women appear more likely to experience infertility they are also less likely to seek medical help to get pregnant.  

In the second half of the show the hosts were joined by fertility blogger Vanessa Haye and paediatrician Dr Tamara Bugembe who talked about their fertility battles. 

Vanessa Haye took the listeners on an in-depth journey through her IVF treatment. She was very forthcoming about her infertility struggles and the cultural pressures and expectations placed on married couples to conceive.  Vanessa was also very open about the mental, physical and emotional impact that IVF had on her. She underwent two cycles of IVF and she conceived following the second cycle after suffering a miscarriage in the first cycle. 

Tamara's story shook things up a bit. As a single woman in her early thirties she felt freezing her eggs would give her the freedom she needed to be able to take her time to find a suitable partner rather than just rushing to settle down. So she had her eggs frozen at the age of 34 and three years later as she still had not met someone she decided to have a baby by herself. Tamara expressed the great challenges she faced trying to find suitable sperm from a black donor in the UK as 'a lot of clinics do not have any black sperm in storage'.  She eventually bought some black sperm from Denmark and she is now four and a half months pregnant following IVF treatment. 

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, the hosts did not hold back from the beginning and many thought-provoking issues were raised throughout. I also liked the fact that all the women featured on this episode were very open, honest and transparent. 
 

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Egg freezing, fertility and IVF
The Sista Collective |  21 June 2019
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