Infertility in the Hmong Community

In honor of Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to raise up this topic that most don't really talk about. I know that every woman's story is different and so are their experiences. I recently reached out to a few women to ask if they'd share their stories, experiences, and hardships of carrying the weight of infertility while also being Hmong. If you continue reading, your heart will break to hear what this woman's gone through. No one has ever prepared a woman to go through infertility and being of Hmong descent, it makes it so much harder. 

"Being a Hmong nyab is already stressful but when I’m also having issues with infertility, it makes me feel like a failure to myself as a woman and to my husband. In the Hmong culture, they expect the daughter in law to continue the generation by having kids. My first year of marriage, my mother-in-law and all the other women of the family already started asking when I was going to have a child. Second-year rolls around, still nothing. They still ask but now also gossip behind my back.

I was a bigger lady so I ate healthily and worked out a lot. I lost a good 20+ lbs. I got Hmong herbs to drink and to cook with eggs and also got a tummy massage too. All that yet still no baby. During the 4th year into the marriage, I decided to seek an Obgyn to see if there was anything wrong with me. 
In the Hmong culture, they tend to blame the ladies first. I had lots of appointments and lots of labs to be drawn. It turned out I had polyps in my uterus which needed to be removed and I also had PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). PCOS doesn't make me sterile but it means I’ll have a longer and harder time to have a kid but doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t. I had my polyps removed, yet still no luck. I had an HSG exam to check my tubes, but I was also normal. At this point, my medical bills were adding up. My husband also got himself tested and he checked out too. I was stressed out.

Whenever I show up at gatherings, all the women will ask:
 “Any kids yet?” 
“You guys have been married so long, go see a doctor.” 
“You're not getting younger, hurry and have some kids.” 
“Have kids so your parents and in-laws can see them before they leave this world.” “
If you don't have kids who're going to take care of you when you get old? Who’s going to bury you” etc.... 
I was depressed. All these medical debts and no luck. Now all the questions every single time. I slowly distanced myself and stop going to gatherings. Even though I know my in-law's side is talking about me not being a good nyab by showing up to help etc. How can I come when everyone lines up asking the same thing? It hurts. I don’t need to be reminded. But yet they always remind you that you failed as a wife and daughter-in-law. 
What’s worse was that my own mother even suggested me to let my husband married a second wife. She can stay home and my husband and I can just work and provide for whatever she'd need or want. At this time, I had a close friend who was recently divorced with kids, so my mother said to let him marry her. We are friends too so it'd be easier and plus she had kids so it meant she was fertile. It shattered my heart to a million pieces. Even my own mother saw me as a failure.

Everywhere I went, it made me ashamed to say "I’m married," because this is always the questions:  “Are you married or single? How long have you’ve been married? Any kids? No kids? Why not? Have you’ve tried Hmong herbs? Have you’ve got tummy massage or seen a dr? What did the doctor say?”

Some days I feel so depressed. I silently cry myself to sleep or on my way to work and even in my dreams. We grew up learning that a woman with a period will conceive a child. We weren’t taught that there are some who will struggle with infertility, hormones, thyroid, PCOS, and many other difficulties. The Hmong don’t understand what PCOS is nor infertility. 
I feel treated as an object. If it works cool, if it doesn’t, just buy a new one. They will never ask how am I holding up going through all of this, or if I need someone they are there. No! They won’t tell you that. They will keep suggesting all sorts of herbs and so on.

What they don’t know is that sometimes it's so hard that I began to lie to them and became good at it. “ Oh we’re not ready yet," " We still want to travel first," "We” ll think about it someday but not right now.” It's depressing and exhausting to be a Hmong nyab with infertility issues. If they would be a bit more understanding and put themselves in my shoes. Infertility hurts."


  • I can relate %100. My husband and I had our son at a young age. We decided we wanted to just focus on him because it was difficult to raise a baby at a young age. We waited almost 4 years until we decided we wanted to try again. I was confident we could conceive within the first year of trying knowing that I’ve conceived before. First year, nothing. Second year, nothing. Third year, nothing. Our son is now 7 1/2 years today and yet still nothing.

    Throughout the whole time of trying up until now, it breaks my heart over and over again. Just staring at that pregnancy test and seeing a negative makes me feel so lost and a complete failure. Everyone says the same things to us as well: “When are you having another baby?” “ Hurry up and have more, or else you’ll be too old!” “You guys aren’t trying hard enough!” And so on…

    It really hurts that people assume it should be easy to conceive, but they don’t understand that infertility is real and the obstacles almost seems endless.

    We have not seen any fertility specialists yet, but that is our plan for this year. Although I have gone to see an endocrinologist regarding hormonal acne and the DR did detect A bit of PCOS. So I’ve been trying to lose weight and incorporate a healthy diet. We really want to conceive as natural as possible. Otherwise we definitely will be seeking fertility options within the next year.

    Thank you for sharing your story especially it being such a sensitive topic. It does give all of us other women who are dealing with infertility a sense of encouragement and uplifting feeling knowing that we are all trying together.

    Best of luck,

  • Hi there and thank you for sharing your story. I’m 31 and I was also diagnosed with pcos a couple of years ago due to the fact that I have irregular periods and anovulation. I’m trying to lose 30lbs at the moment with 24lbs left to go. I stopped eating Hmong foods and Asian foods altogether and portioned my food every day. After my first week, I got my period. Sometimes we think it’s our diet and what we eat that disrupts our hormones, but it’s hard to give up our Hmong foods or Asian foods. I finally did and now, I’m really happy to declined rice, pho, and all the yummy stir fried and deep fried foods and fast foods. My husband and I dated over 10 years before we got married. Yes, we used birth control to avoid unwanted pregnancies. We’ve been married for 3 years now and 2 big fertility jingles later and I am still trying. I saw an herbalist and tried her teas for few months, and countless Asian herbs from my mil and my mom. I also tried acupuncture and cupping therapy to help with blood circulation and stress. I went to get stomach massages and was informed I’m fertile. I went to have 3 medicated cycles at the doctors with no success. I just had our ivf consult and definitely saving money to go that route. During this journey, I just hated myself and the choices I made in the past in regards to food choices and birth control methods. I’m also the type to worry a lot and it was hard for me to relax. PCOS was not the only hardship I had. I was also affected spiritually and I was advised to avoid lakes and rivers. It was not easy to get rid of these spiritual beings especially when it has been happening for a long time. Yes it is the type of spirit that affects your fertility. I’ve come a really long way and I’ve finally started to just think positive and get my body back to normal and just try my best to block the spirit and energy. Sadly, it is 50% spiritual and 50% hormonal, but I’m not going to be afraid anymore and will do whatever it takes. I’ve also stopped taking asian fertility medicine and will not add another to her failed list. It’s a painful journey and I really wish everyone the best and that all of you will be bless with many children.

  • To KA who posted april 26, i kept having miscarriages also but my 2 babies as soon as i found out i went and was put on progesterone pills until i was 4 months and it helped me both times to carry to term.

  • Infertility is so hard if you arent in the shoes you wont understand. My ex husband and i tried for so long with many miscarriages. My ex mnl and fnl tood my husband to get remarried also. We got divorced after 6 years of marriage. I am now remarried with 2 beautiful babies and he is remarried with 3 kids.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your story! I started having children in my mid-30’s and it took me a while to be able to conceive both times. It was discouraging. They found some ovarian cysts during one of my pregnancy ultrasounds and my sister also has PCOS, so I suspect that could have been part of my challenge, too. Sending you positive energy and love on your journey. I know our relatives (and even our parents) make it especially challenging, but know that there are many of us out here who understand the struggle and are wishing you well.


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