Michelle Obama opens up about infertility

Former first lady Michelle Obama revealed personal details about her pregnancy and marriage in an interview with ABC's Robin Roberts.

Posted: Nov 11, 2018 7:15 AM
Updated: Nov 11, 2018 7:22 AM

Free from the constraints she might have felt while living in the White House, former first lady Michelle Obama is getting personal, opening herself up to the world in bold ways in her memoir, "Becoming," out Tuesday.

One piece of her journey that she delves into: the struggles she faced with infertility, a subject that so often remains in the shadows.

She shared details about how she had a miscarriage and relied on in vitro fertilization to conceive her two girls, according to the Washington Post, which received an advance copy of the book. She also revealed how she was left to give herself the necessary shots when her husband was off fulfilling his duties in the state Legislature.

"I felt lost and alone, and I felt like I failed," she told Robin Roberts in an interview that ran Friday on "Good Morning America." "I didn't know how common miscarriages were, because we don't talk about them. We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we're broken."

What Obama articulates is "so universal, not just throughout the US but around the world," says Dr. Zev Williams, director of the Columbia University Fertility Center. "There's a real sense of self-blame and guilt and a reluctance to discuss it with other people."

Williams co-authored a 2015 study looking into public perceptions of miscarriage. Even though he says miscarriage or pregnancy loss occurs in at least 20% of all pregnancies, 55% of those who responded to his survey thought miscarriage was rare, occurring in 5% or less of pregnancies, and some believed that they occur "in under 0.1% of pregnancies," he said.

Not only are miscarriages common, they are "in almost all cases" not the mother's fault, Williams added. The fact that this sort of information isn't widely known only makes matters worse.

"Of those who had a miscarriage, 37% felt they had a lost a child, 47% felt guilty, 41% reported feeling that they had done something wrong, 41% felt alone, and 28% felt ashamed," the study reported.

Obama has revealed that she's no different from other women who've suffered in silence. And the fact that she is speaking out today is significant, Williams said.

"This happened 20 years ago, and she's talking about it now, which really reflects the emotional impact it had on her, as it's had on many others," he said.

In sharing this part of herself, Obama told Roberts, she hopes to help change the conversation.

"The biological clock is real," Obama said. "I think it's the worst thing that we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work and how they don't work."

Putting her high-profile name and face on this topic will serve to help not just those who've been there themselves but also those who could be more understanding and sensitive.

"For those who have gone through pregnancy loss, they will get a sense of comfort in seeing that they are not alone in the world" and a sense of hope in knowing that Obama was able to go on to have two children, Williams said.

And for those who've been spared this sort of struggle, he added, Obama's story can be "eye-opening and perhaps help people be a little more careful with their words."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 176157

Reported Deaths: 2461
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah35145568
Washington23569229
Marion20282299
Clackamas15499204
Lane11722144
Jackson9984127
Umatilla798483
Deschutes721472
Linn418763
Yamhill412575
Klamath353759
Polk346452
Malheur343058
Josephine307862
Douglas305765
Benton275418
Jefferson207432
Coos198431
Columbia155426
Union141824
Lincoln130520
Wasco130228
Hood River113029
Morrow108115
Clatsop9008
Crook89119
Baker86114
Curry5999
Tillamook5833
Grant4204
Lake4147
Harney3136
Wallowa1575
Gilliam571
Sherman571
Wheeler261
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3723446

Reported Deaths: 61122
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles122964123668
Riverside2976204547
San Bernardino2949734561
San Diego2753683674
Orange2691764900
Santa Clara1173172017
Kern1080131331
Sacramento1016651647
Fresno1007021646
Alameda855831477
Ventura803321002
San Joaquin717351334
Contra Costa67157782
Stanislaus605831032
Tulare49443831
Monterey43301364
San Mateo41226560
San Francisco36094529
Santa Barbara33926446
Solano32047239
Merced31289453
Sonoma29720311
Imperial27995719
Kings22781245
Placer21908283
San Luis Obispo20991257
Madera16289240
Santa Cruz15666204
Marin13868226
Yolo13572200
Shasta11747219
Butte11601196
El Dorado9797109
Napa971579
Sutter9299109
Yuba612744
San Benito598963
Lassen567924
Tehama544556
Nevada448975
Tuolumne408664
Mendocino399347
Humboldt363138
Amador362946
Lake341643
Glenn235825
Colusa220416
Calaveras206252
Siskiyou196521
Inyo141838
Del Norte12907
Mono12744
Plumas6936
Modoc4904
Mariposa4287
Trinity3985
Sierra1100
Alpine880
Unassigned440
Medford
Partly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 44°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 54°
Medford
Clear
44° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 44°
Medford
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 42°
Feels Like: 44°
Klamath Falls
Clear
38° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 32°
Sunny, warm, and breezy Wednesday
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events