When Jasmine Higgins and her wife decided to add children to their family, they never expected to struggle with infertility.
“We thought, this is going to be easy, we just go to a fertility clinic and we, you know, get a baby,” Higgins said as she recounts her challenges with fertility on this Instagram live conversation. “Unfortunately, we assumed it would be easy and it wasn’t, because my wife had infertility and I did as well, and we didn’t even know that [going in].
Higgins was diagnosed with infertility after two inseminations that did not take and a third one that resulted in a miscarriage. Suddenly she found herself among the nearly 13% of women in the United States who have received infertility services, according to the CDC.
“An infertility diagnosis is a tremendously life-altering experience for anyone, especially communities that do not have the same access and financial means to undergo treatment. Infertility doesn’t mean you can’t start a family. It just means that you’ll need help, expensive help, from fertility specialists,” Higgins tells GO.
The hardship that Higgins faced in her struggle to conceive pushed her to find other women like her through infertility support groups.
“I found out through support groups online that infertility is really common. And I thought I was exempt because I just didn’t think about [infertility] at all in my life,” Higgins continues.
Through an infertility support group in her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, Higgins met Adriana Bagué Quiñones and formed a bond as two Latinas confronting infertility. Soon after, they met Blanca Tellez from San Antonio, Texas, in an online support group. The three quickly realized the power of forming community with other Latinas that understand some of the unique cultural pressures around childbirth and pregnancy within Latinx spaces. Seeing a need for greater awareness around infertility issues for Latinas, the group decided to launch “Infertilidad Latina,” a bilingual podcast centering individuals and couples who have achieved or are working to achieve success with fertility treatments.
“We wanted to create a support system for Spanish-speaking communities. There are a lot of taboos, and misunderstandings surrounding reproductive health, especially culturally. Latinx people are not exempt [from infertility] because we come from large families. One in eight people will suffer from infertility, and that includes us,” Higgins tells GO. “Infertility is a global problem. It isn’t new. Yet most, if not all, of the resources and representation we came across didn’t include BIPOC, Latinx, or queer individuals. So we started a podcast to change that.”
The podcast launched in the fall of 2020 and is decidedly Spanglish, meaning most guests are encouraged to share their very personal experiences with infertility while fluidly switching from both English and Spanish as they feel comfortable. This form of code-switching is prevalent among Latinos in the United States that still maintain their native language or speak Spanish at home. The podcast intentionally targets Latinx listeners who may feel unable to speak about their experience for fear of being judged by family.
“There’s a cultural stigma about infertility because as Latinas, we’re often raised to believe we’ll be mothers, and that it should come naturally. We’re pressured or asked constantly if we’ll have children. However, pay gaps, lack of reproductive care, changes in the environment, all affect reproduction for both men and women. So, when people have trouble conceiving, especially Latinx people, we hide it, or don’t seek treatment. We think it’s a problem we can overcome with patience and prayer,” Higgins tells GO.
The podcast “Infertilidad Latina” aims to break the stigma around infertility so that listeners can feel empowered to seek treatment and to know how to navigate resources that may be available to them. Episodes include frank conversations about medications, side effects, procedures, and more to demystify the complex world of fertility treatment.
Additionally, having Higgins as cohost brings important queer representation to the show. On the episode titled “Dos Mujeres y Una Wanda,” Higgins interviews a queer Latina named Larita about her Trying to Conceive (TTC) journey. (TTC is the common abbreviation for infertility support forums). One obstacle discussed in the episode that many queer women of color encounter is the lack of sperm donors that reflect their ethnic identity. As reported in this Rewire article, successfully becoming a sperm donor is quite cumbersome and involves several lengthy health screenings. There are cultural and geographical challenges that limit the diversity of donors, too. In addition to the sperm donor problem, queer couples thinking about fertility must also consider legal implications, as discussed in the episode.
“Being queer and infertile is a challenge. Medically, we are no different from anyone. Our treatment options are very similar to all other couples undergoing infertility/fertility, and there are creative ways for both parents to be involved in conceiving or starting a family,” Higgins says. “However, what is different are the threats of laws that aim to exclude us from having a family. Having laws dictate your parental rights, or even your access is incredibly troubling.“
With all the stressful challenges that can arise with infertility, the creators of “Infertilidad Latina” stress the importance of mental health.
“Not everyone who tries to conceive can or does in the time they expected. That can be incredibly damaging to a couple and or to an individual. We help spread awareness about mental health, and having support and representation matters in the Latinx community because it’s also taboo to mention you’re mentally ill,” Higgins explains.
Guests of the “Infertilidad Latina” podcast share vulnerable and very intimate details about their challenges with infertility. Many of the experiences shared are about loss, but also about overcoming obstacles. Episodes discuss the many paths to parenthood that exist, including adoption, to build community and fight the isolation that can come from struggling with infertility alone.
“You are not alone – that’s our motto. It’s our mission for everyone to know about infertilidad.”
“Infertilidad Latina” podcast is on Apple, Spotify, and Google.