The stereotypes that black women don’t have fertility issues are persistent, harmful and wrong. In fact, Black women experience infertility at nearly twice the rate of white women, but are almost half as likely to get help. Black women are at higher risk for other fertility, pregnancy, and birth complications, too.
This year black women such as Serena Williams, Beyonce, Gabrielle Union and Michelle Obama broke their silence to shine a light on this taboo topic to hopefully spark a dialogue to inspire more women to share their experiences and seek help.
Bri Braggs, a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Reiki Master, and the founder of Fertile Alchemy is on a mission to help shift the narrative around fertility for women, especially black women. Here’s her story and how she’s creating space for black women in the wellness industry to be sure we’re seen and celebrated.
What inspired your holistic wellness journey?
In 2012 I started struggling with digestive health. Having received an IBS diagnosis at fifteen, I knew I needed to make some serious changes in my life. I started by eliminating gluten and dairy and drinking green smoothies every day. Those small changes ultimately led me to the holistic lifestyle I live now.
How do you hope to shift the narrative around fertility and women’s health?
Most women, especially black women don’t think about their fertility until they are either ready to start a family, or there is something wrong. When you do hear about fertility, it’s almost always centered around infertility. I hope to shift that narrative by inspiring women to think about their fertility long before they consider getting pregnant, or even if they never want children at all. ‘”Fertility as a lifestyle” has long been the motto that I share with my clients and audience. I hope to inspire women to live their life with their fertility as a top priority.
How do you stay grounded and practice self-care – especially while on your period?
I really try and prioritize my self-care by making time for it. Like most black women, I had to really learn to prioritize my self-care. I was not taught to put myself and my needs first. To stay grounded I take several baths a week, I do yoga, I meditate, I see a therapist. I also practice what is called “cycle syncing” which means my entire life is centered around the current phase of my menstrual cycle. During the follicular phase, I focus on replenishing my body and building my energy. During ovulation, I have the most energy and I am the most social. I go hard in the gym and schedule any important meetings around this time because it is when I feel most confident. During the luteal phase, I slow down, wrap up any open projects, and practice restorative yoga.
My period is when I prioritize self-care the most. If there is ever a time in a women’s cycle to practice self-care, it’s during menstruation. How you treat your body during this time, will determine how much energy you have during the rest of your cycle. On day one of my cycle, I take the day off to rest. I eat warming foods, take baths using Fertile Alchemy Aromatic Bath Soak, apply Fertile Alchemy Aromatic Oil, and I stay off of social media. I pour into myself.
Can you share more on the importance of choosing foods that help with hormonal balance and fertility? What is a fertility diet it? What are some staples you keep in your diet that help you?
When it comes to our health, we almost always start with our diet. If you’re eating a diet high in processed foods, sugar, dairy, and soy you will very likely experience discomfort during your period. Most women believe that cramping is normal and that it’s something we have to experience, and that is simply not true. What you eat can and will impact your hormonal health. Eating a “fertility diet” which is high in protein, vegetables, and fruit is one of the absolute best ways to keep your hormones balanced.
My typical dinner plate has some sort of protein and at least three different types of vegetables. For a fertility diet, my staples are Salmon, grass-fed pasture raised Eggs, Walnuts, Leafy Greens, Avocado, Sweet Potato, and of course water. A diet rich in those foods is a great place to start.
Michelle Obama and Gabrielle Union recently spoke about their infertility issues and that has sparked a major conversation about infertility for black women. What is your perspective on IVF?
First off, I am so happy to see two women so well known share their struggles with infertility. Black women are 3x as likely to suffer from infertility as their white counterparts, yet we rarely hear anything about it from black women.
I think IVF is absolutely great for women who have a hard time conceiving on their own, and for those who have decided to freeze their eggs earlier on in life. Ultimately, how a woman decides to conceive her baby is a very personal choice, and we should support her in whatever she chooses.
What does it mean to be a black woman in the wellness world? How do you hope to break barriers?
Being a black woman in the wellness world is certainly not the easiest when white women tend to be the face of it. I have been tokenized, skipped over, and not taken seriously. And even within the black wellness world, proximity to whiteness is still very much an issue. I hope to break barriers by bringing awareness to the lack of diversity within wellness. I speak about it often, I’m always sharing other black women in wellness with my audience, and I invest my money and time into businesses that are owned and supportive of women of color.
What’s one ritual you recommend more women of color adapt to cultivate inner beauty and wellness?
I once read a quote by the activist Ericka Hart that said “Black women have been conditioned to hold space for others” and it hit me to my core. Before you take a bath, do a face mask, or light a candle – take that space back! Create a ritual around prioritizing yourself. Pour into you before you pour into others. Inner beauty comes from inner peace, and that is hard to acquire if you’re constantly giving of yourself and never getting anything in return.
What would you like to say to women who are struggling with infertility?
Please know that you are not alone. Infertility can be very lonely, and most women are too ashamed and embarrassed to share what they’re going through. But it’s nothing to be ashamed about, your feelings deserve to be validated. Please don’t go through this journey alone.