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Michelle Obama’s revelation of IVF

GLENN ELLIS | 11/18/2018, 5:56 p.m. | Updated on 11/27/2018, 10:41 a.m.
In her just-released book, Michelle Obama made public, for the first time, that she used in vitro fertilization to have ...
Former first lady Michelle Obama Live Nation

Strategies for Well-Being

In her just-released book, Michelle Obama made public, for the first time, that she used in vitro fertilization to have both her daughters. Obama, at 34 years old, experienced something many women and couples have a hard time discussing: infertility.

The news, TV, internet, magazines, newspapers and movie stars have popularized infertility and fertility therapy. They have also popularized having babies over the age of 40. Celebrities are now more open about the use of fertility therapy, donor eggs and donor sperm to conceive. Like it or not, celebrities have made it less shameful to experience infertility.

About 10 percent of U.S. women between 15 and 44 years old – or 6.1 million – have difficulty getting or staying pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In about 8 percent of infertile couples, the problem lies with the male, whereas in 35 percent of infertility cases, it is both the male and female.

IVF is a common infertility treatment. During the procedure, a fertility doctor takes the eggs from the ovaries using a small needle and fertilizes them with sperm in a specialized lab. After fertilization happens, the eggs develop into embryos. Three to five days later, the specialist reimplants the embryos back into the uterus.

However, in some cases, the eggs of a “donor” are required for many couples to have children. In these cases, the eggs of a donor are used to fertilize the sperm of the father, and are then reinserted into the uterus of the mother.

What we don’t know at this time is whether Obama used her own eggs, or if they were the eggs from a third-party donor.

There are many ethical issues with egg donation to consider.

Concern has also been raised about the long-term health of children born through IVF. Otherwise healthy children conceived by IVF may have higher blood pressure, adiposity, glucose levels and more generalized vascular dysfunction than children conceived naturally.

Unlike the process men undergo to donate sperm, the preparation and procedure involved in egg donation require a longer-term commitment – a woman’s body is hormonally altered through the process, and she undergoes surgery.

On average, nationally, a “fresh” IVF cycle costs $12,000, before medications, which typically run another $3,000 to $5,000. In a fresh IVF cycle, eggs are harvested, and after a closely monitored period of receiving ovulation-inducing medications, are then “mixed” with fresh sperm. One or two of the best looking of the resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus via a thin catheter.

Most donors produce somewhere between 10 and 25 eggs, which are then sucked out of their fallopian tube with a hollow needle inserted through the vagina.

Though many egg donors derive great satisfaction from knowing that they helped someone start a family, the price of eggs has soared in recent years as demand has increased, and the sizable payments raise controversy.

Many feel that the real issue is whether the money can cloud someone’s judgment. Ethicists, and some women’s health advocates, worry that lucrative payments are enticing young women with credit-card debt and steep tuition bills to sell eggs without seriously evaluating the risks.