Michelle Obama didn't realise how common miscarriages were when she had hers — here's what you should know

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
  • In an interview with “Good Morning America” on Friday,Michelle Obama revealed that she had a miscarriage 20 years ago.
  • Obama said that, at the time, she didn’t know how common miscarriages were because the topic isn’t often discussed.
  • Miscarriage in the first trimester – also called early pregnancy loss – occurs in about 10% of known pregnancies.
  • Obama argued that it’s, “important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen.”

In a new interview with “Good Morning America,” former first lady Michelle Obama revealed that she suffered a miscarriage 20 years ago.

In her new book “Becoming,” which comes out Tuesday, Obama explained that she and husband Barack struggled with infertility as they tried to start a family.

“It turns out that even two committed go-getters with a deep love and robust work ethic can’t will themselves into being pregnant,” she wrote in the book, according to “Good Morning America.” She did become pregnant but learned that she miscarried just weeks later, the show reported. (Her two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were later conceived using in vitro fertilization.)

“I felt lost and alone and I felt like I failed, because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were, because we don’t talk about them,” Obama told “Good Morning America.” “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.”

Miscarriage is common in the early weeks of pregnancy, and it often has a random cause

Miscarriages in the first trimester of pregnancy – when it seems Obama experienced hers – really are common. It’s a phenomenon also known as early pregnancy loss, and it occurs in about 10% of known pregnancies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

It turns out Obama’s feeling of failure are not unusual, either.

Some women worry that they have done something wrong to cause a miscarriage, the ACOG notes. But many activities women may believe cause miscarriage (including working, exercising, having sex while pregnant, using birth control pills before pregnancy, and experiencing morning sickness) do not cause it to happen, the organisation says.


Read more:
What to say to a friend who had a miscarriage that will actually comfort them

Smoking and drinking alcohol may increase the risk of miscarriage, but research in this area isn’t totally clear, according to the ACOG. (The organisation still advises pregnant women avoid both.) And consuming moderate amounts of caffeine (200 mg or less per day, or the amount in about two cups of coffee) also doesn’t appear to increase the odds of miscarriage.

Actually, about half of miscarriages happen because of random abnormalities in an embryo, the ACOG adds. Normal egg and sperm cells have 23 chromosomes each. If an egg and sperm join but one doesn’t have the normal amount, the embryo will not develop normally, sometimes leading to miscarriage.

The risk of miscarriage goes up with age

One thing that does increase the risk of miscarriage is getting older. Women are born with a fixed amount of eggs in their ovaries and, as they get older, they’re left with fewer eggs that are more likely to have genetic abnormalities. The likelihood of miscarriage is higher in women older than 35, according to the ACOG. In women over 40, it happens in more than a third of pregnancies. Obama, who’s now 54, would have been around 34 years old when her miscarriage occurred.

In her interview with “Good Morning America,” Obama argued for more openness on the topic of miscarriage.

“We sit in our own pain thinking that somehow we’re broken. So that’s one of the reasons why I think it’s important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen and the biological clock is real,” she said.

Visit

INSIDER’s homepage

for more.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.