IVF Gave Obamas a Second Chance at Pregnancy

Premier Health Now

If you suffer from infertility, Michelle Obama has shared your pain. In her new book and in recent interviews she opens up about the heartbreak of miscarriage, fertility issues, and her desire to help young women who want to conceive. She says in vitro fertilization (IVF) provided her and former President Barack Obama “a second chance” at having children. Daughters Malia and Sasha were both born as a result of IVF.

Fertility specialist Joseph Karnitis, MD, with SpringCreek Fertility, has witnessed the agony of infertility as well as the joy of a healthy baby. Premier Health Now asked him about IVF and how it may help a couple conceive. IVF is a procedure whereby an egg is fertilized by sperm outside the body.

“IVF isn’t always necessary, but it is clearly an effective treatment to achieve pregnancy quickly,” says Dr. Karnitis. “When a person like Michelle Obama has suffered a miscarriage, she might choose a treatment that will achieve a pregnancy more quickly than waiting to try again.”

Two clear-cut reasons why a couple may turn to IVF are when a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked or when a man’s sperm count is exceptionally low, says Dr. Karnitis. Couples sometimes turn to IVF as they get older, if the woman has problems with her uterus, or if she produces fewer eggs than normal.

To further explain how IVF works, Dr. Karnitis provides this common scenario:

A young healthy woman may produce 50 eggs a month, but her brain produces enough hormone to make just one of those eggs viable for pregnancy. Sometimes that egg isn’t a good egg and not ideal for producing a baby, and the pregnancy results in a miscarriage. In this instance, IVF can help because in IVF we can select the eggs that are best suited for fertilization. And after fertilization, we can screen the embryos and avoid those that we believe could result in miscarriage. In these ways we can improve a woman’s chance of pregnancy and a healthy baby.

What are the odds of having a healthy baby following IVF? It’s a complex question that depends on many factors, says Dr. Karnitis. “A younger woman makes stronger embryos. Her pregnancy rates via IVF would be very high, more than 50 percent. Women over 40 have a lower success rate.” Smoking also affects the quality of a woman’s eggs, he says.