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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 8:50 AM
Updated: Nov 11, 2018 9:22 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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 517138

Reported Deaths: 10306
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison35086559
DeSoto33512432
Hinds32826644
Jackson24938392
Rankin22621405
Lee16564245
Madison14986283
Jones14195248
Forrest13865260
Lauderdale12343323
Lowndes11401193
Lamar10715140
Pearl River9762244
Lafayette8898143
Hancock7854132
Washington7562169
Oktibbeha7246138
Monroe7106179
Pontotoc7071110
Warren6915179
Panola6815136
Neshoba6762210
Marshall6751142
Bolivar6484151
Union647099
Alcorn5969108
Pike5953157
Lincoln5550136
George511380
Prentiss511086
Tippah498483
Itawamba4916107
Scott479599
Tate4790118
Adams4789125
Leflore4765144
Copiah458995
Simpson4587117
Yazoo458692
Wayne444372
Covington435895
Sunflower4338106
Marion4313112
Coahoma4263111
Leake414491
Newton396482
Tishomingo390294
Grenada3799109
Stone366466
Attala342290
Jasper341667
Chickasaw320867
Winston319092
Clay314378
Clarke302095
Calhoun289550
Holmes273789
Smith271452
Yalobusha246547
Tallahatchie233153
Greene225549
Walthall222266
Lawrence221142
Perry214656
Amite210657
Webster207248
Noxubee188943
Montgomery182857
Carroll176341
Jefferson Davis175043
Tunica164139
Benton153539
Kemper145641
Choctaw138027
Claiborne134939
Humphreys132639
Franklin127130
Quitman107928
Wilkinson106539
Jefferson97334
Sharkey65321
Issaquena1957
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 849409

Reported Deaths: 16199
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1165042004
Mobile744951384
Madison53605739
Shelby38474373
Baldwin38236590
Tuscaloosa36225644
Montgomery34599784
Lee25712264
Calhoun22652520
Morgan22569411
Etowah20084521
Marshall18878318
Houston17806426
St. Clair16987359
Limestone16220222
Cullman16183306
Elmore15967295
Lauderdale15126308
Talladega14275302
DeKalb13099271
Walker12202380
Blount10803193
Autauga10566157
Jackson10237196
Coffee9447192
Colbert9396210
Dale9052192
Tallapoosa7291202
Russell711965
Chilton7101171
Covington6985197
Escambia6972146
Franklin6379108
Chambers5815142
Marion5451132
Dallas5307210
Pike5135109
Clarke485986
Lawrence4857130
Winston4804111
Geneva4658137
Bibb436795
Barbour370880
Butler3446101
Marengo342593
Monroe338666
Randolph338567
Pickens335590
Fayette332785
Henry321566
Cherokee321264
Hale320289
Crenshaw262278
Washington256952
Cleburne255460
Lamar253755
Clay253169
Macon246667
Conecuh193962
Coosa186248
Lowndes178468
Wilcox178338
Bullock152845
Perry141940
Sumter139841
Greene130845
Choctaw94928
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