For couples looking to start a family, few things are more heartbreaking than a diagnosis of infertility. The Rev. Stacey Edwards-Dunn of Chicago knows this pain well.
She and her husband Earl waged a six-year battle with infertility before they at last gave birth to a daughter, Shiloh, in 2014.
Now founder of a nonprofit support group, Fertility for Colored Girls (FFCG), Edwards-Dunn this weekend will travel to Charlotte to open her newest chapter, expected to launch with six to eight members.
“Because there was no safe space for women of color struggling with infertility to share and gather, the Lord placed it upon my heart to start FFCG,” she recently told Qcitymetro.
Launched in 2013, FFCG has chapters in Chicago; Richmond; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Detroit and the “MidSouth,” an area that Edwards-Dunn described as including Memphis, Mississippi and Arkansas.
She said she chose Charlotte because of its large population of African Americans.
“Once six women from the Charlotte area committed to facilitating the chapter, the wheels were put in motion,” she said.
FFCG does not offer medical advice or services. Edwards-Dunn said its primary goal is to provide support for women who are dealing with emotional distress that is sometimes caused by infertility. That support typically comes in the form of private meetings, webinars, prayer sessions and resource sharing.
Infertility is more common than some might think.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it affects about 6 percent of married women in the United States aged 15 to 44. Also, about 12 percent of women in that age rage, regardless of marital status, have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. (The CDC defines infertility as not being able to get pregnant after at least one year of unprotected sex.)
Edwards-Dunn, an author and fulltime minister, speaks of her support groups with missionary zeal.
It was while undergoing a fifth cycle of in vitro fertilization, she said, that she began to encounter other black women who were facing similar issues. And it was then, she said, that God led her to launch Fertility for Colored Girls.
Edwards-Dunn offered statistics suggesting that black women are twice as likely as their white counterparts to encounter infertility issues.
But infertility is not just a female concern.
According to the CDC, in about 35 percent of couples with infertility, a male factor is identified along with a female factor. And in about 8 percent of couples with infertility, a male factor is the only identifiable cause.
Almost 9 percent of men aged 25 to 44 years in the United States reported that they or their partner saw a doctor for advice, testing, or treatment for infertility during their lifetime, the CDC reports.
Although FFCG was founded as a support group for black women, Edwards-Dunn said men are welcome to attend with spouses.
“We provide educational forums as well that speak to male factor infertility,” she said. “FFCG is not exclusive. We welcome all — men and women of all ethnicities.”
Saturday’s launch is free and open to the public. However, discretion and privacy is maintained for those participating in group sessions.
“We don’t tell the location of our support groups, unless individuals RSVP,” Edwards-Dunn said. “We honor the confidentiality of our members.”
The launch will be held from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Park Expo and Conference Center (800 Briar Creek Rd, Charlotte, NC 28205). Light refreshments will be served. To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 773-273-9870.
Until next time, I wish you good health, joy and wellness!
Sondra E. Z. Hines is an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. Follow her on Twitter.