Michelle Obama Reveals Her Daughters Were Conceived Using IVF
Michelle Obama opened up for the first time about experiencing a miscarriage and undergoing in vitro fertilization with husband Barack Obama to conceive their two daughters, Malia and Sasha.
The Associated Press reports that in her upcoming memoir, “Becoming,” Obama details many of the personal struggles she and the former president have faced, including fertility issues. “We were trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t going well,” Obama writes. “We had one pregnancy test come back positive, which caused us both to forget every worry and swoon with joy, but a couple of weeks later I had a miscarriage, which left me physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we felt.”
The former first lady added that this left her feeling “lost and alone” in an interview with Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts.
“I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them,” Obama said. “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.”
Mrs. Obama’s words may sound painfully familiar to anyone who has experienced a miscarriage or fertility issues. Although one in eight couples have difficulty getting pregnant and/or sustaining a pregnancy, the subject is not often talked about, leaving many to feel like they are truly alone in the experience. “That’s one of the reasons why I think it’s important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen,” Obama said.
After reaching her mid-30s, Obama told Roberts she began to realize just how “real” the biological clock is, leading her and Barack to seek out infertility treatments in the form of IVF. In her memoir, she recalls having to administer her own shots while her husband was at the state legislature, “leaving me largely on my own to manipulate my reproductive system into peak efficiency.”
In vitro fertilization is a process in which mature eggs are retrieved from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab. The fertilized egg(s) are then implanted in the uterus to enhance the chances of pregnancy. Although success rates have improved dramatically since the first IVF treatment in 1978, currently, the success rate for women under 35 is 41 percent – though that percentage drops as a woman gets older. Success rates can also vary due to other factors, such as a woman’s health, the number of embryos transferred and the material used. Embryos made from frozen eggs have a lower success rate than previously frozen embryos.
Many physicians say that patients will see success after two or three IVF cycles; however, the cost of the treatment can often be a limiting factor in how many rounds people are able to do. On average, each round of IVF costs about $12,000, not including fertility medications which can cost an additional several thousand dollars. Insurance coverage varies depending on your policy, but most insurance companies do not cover the full expense of IVF. Some insurers may cover infertility evaluations, but not treatments, while others may only cover certain types of infertility treatments (such as intrauterine insemination or IUI). The availability of coverage also depends on where you live. Only 13 states have laws requiring that insurers cover infertility treatment, and two other states have laws requiring that insurers offer coverage for infertility treatment.
In addition to the financial impact, going through fertility treatments can be physically and emotionally taxing as well. In her article “I Am a Face of Infertility,” Mighty contributor Stacey Skrysak describes the emotions she faced during her struggles with infertility:
Over the years, I went through a range of emotions. What started out as frustration, eventually turned to pity, as I found myself asking, “Why me?” So many nights I would lie awake while my husband soundly slept next to me. As I silently sobbed, the tears dropped on my pillow, the feeling of despair enveloped me. I cried because life didn’t seem fair. A number of health complications meant I might never be able to have children. I cried because of the financial burden my husband and I faced. The years of medical bills only increased the further we went down the infertility road. I cried because I felt alone and misunderstood. Even though I was surrounded by love, the fact my body was “failing” me made me feel defeated.
Experiencing infertility and navigating the road of treatment can be incredibly challenging and, for many, feelings of loneliness yet another difficulty. That’s why it’s so important when influential leaders like Michelle Obama speak out and raise awareness of how common this experience really is.
“I think it’s the worst thing that we do to each other as women,” Obama said, “[to] not share the truth about our bodies, and how they work and how they don’t work.”
Michelle Obama’s memoir “Becoming” is available for purchase starting Nov. 13.
Lead image via Obama for America on Flickr