Skip Navigation
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

The .gov means it’s official.
Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.


The site is secure.
The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

Your Environment. Your Health.


Export to Word (
Principal Investigator: Wesselink, Amelia Kent
Institute Receiving Award Boston University Medical Campus
Location Boston, MA
Grant Number R01ES035053
Funding Organization National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Award Funding Period 10 Apr 2023 to 31 Jan 2028
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): PROJECT SUMMARY Infertility is an important public health problem that affects up to 15% of reproductive-aged couples in the United States. Black women experience infertility at approximately two times the rate of white women, yet are less likely to seek medical care and have poorer fertility treatment outcomes. Despite this disparity, epidemiologic research on infertility has largely been conducted among economically privileged white couples seeking treatment at fertility clinics. Studies of fertility that enroll women during preconception or early pregnancy have likewise had limited success in recruiting Black women. Thus, there has been virtually no study of causes of infertility in Black women. Racial residential segregation and racialized patterns of neighborhood investment and disinvestment have resulted in inequitable burdens of spatially-distributed environmental exposures on communities of color. In the present proposal, we examine several exposures of high relevance to Black women, with a focus on environmental and neighborhood-level exposures. We will use data from the Black Women’s Health Study (BWHS), the largest study in existence focusing on the health of Black women. BWHS recruited 59,000 Black women from the United States in 1995 and have followed them biennially for over 25 years. Outcome information was collected retrospectively in 2011, when women reported information on time-to-pregnancy (TTP) for each of their planned pregnancies that ended in a live birth, whether they had ever tried to conceive for >12 months without success, and if so, what cause was identified. We will use these data to examine the association of TTP, infertility, and cause-specific infertility, with 1) historical redlining, a 1930s government sponsored policy in which neighborhoods were classified by investment risk based largely on the presence of Black residents, 2) residential racial and economic segregation and neighborhood socioeconomic status, and 3) residential environmental exposures (including air pollution, green space, and environmental noise). Finally, we will explore how redlining grades are associated with patterns of neighborhood disadvantage and environmental pollution and how mixtures of social and environmental exposures are related to fertility. Exposures will be derived from linkage between BWHS participant addresses (collected biennially from 1995-2011) with geospatial data sets. The proposed study is likely to have a large and sustained impact on the fields of reproductive epidemiology, environmental health, and health disparities. The centering of Black women in infertility research advances health equity, combats racist stereotypes that propagate the idea that infertility is a non-issue for Black women, and allows for the identification of opportunities for intervention to reduce and eliminate infertility disparities. This will be the first study to focus on causes of infertility in Black women, and is highly relevant for understanding how the environment shapes human reproduction.
Science Code(s)/Area of Science(s) Primary: 66 - Female Reproduction
Secondary: 03 - Carcinogenesis/Cell Transformation
Publications No publications associated with this grant
Program Officer Melissa Smarr
to Top