Michelle Obama Opens Up About Experiencing Menopause and Husband Barack's Response
By Antoinette Bueno
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Michelle Obama is continuing to open up about extremely personal topics on her podcast. On Wednesday, during the latest episode of The Michelle Obama Podcast, she got candid on experiencing menopause and aging as a woman.
Michelle invited her friend, Dr. Sharon Malone, MD -- who's an obstetrics and gynecology specialist in Washington, D.C. -- to have a discussion during the episode, which is titled, "What Your Mother Never Told You About Health With Dr. Sharon Malone." The 56-year-old former first lady specifically got into her experience with menopause symptoms.
"I too am a hormone taker, low risk on all the other fronts, because I have a very healthy baseline, and also, you know, well I was experiencing hormone shifts because of infertility, having to take shots and all that," she said. "I experienced the night sweats, even in my 30s, and when you think of the other symptoms that come along, just hot flashes, I mean, I had a few before I started taking hormones. I remember having one on Marine 1. I'm dressed, I need to get out, walk into an event, and, literally, it was like somebody put a furnace in my core and turned it on high, and then everything started melting. And I thought, 'Well this is crazy, I can't, I can't, I can't do this.'"
Michelle then talked about how her husband, former President Barack Obama, reacted to not just her going through menopause, but other women who worked with him.
"Barack was surrounded by women in his cabinet, many going through menopause and he could see it, he could see it in somebody, 'cause sweat would start pouring, and he's like, 'Well, what's going on?' And it's like, no, this is just how we live," she shared. "You know, he didn't fall apart because he found out there were several women in his staff that were going through menopause, it was just sort of like, 'Oh, well turn the air conditioner on.'"
Michelle didn't mince words when talking about women's health issues.
"How many men, do you think, could deal with the severest form of cramps, which literally feels like a knife being stabbed, and turned and then released. And then turned! And then released," she noted. "And you got to do that, and you got to get up and keep going [snaps]. It's like, go to work, go to school, go play on the basketball court. Every woman who's playing a sport now is doing it through all those circumstances. And I don't know any men who could possibly conceive of what that feels like."
"When you think of all that a woman's body has to do over the course of her lifetime, going from being prepared to give birth to actually giving birth, and then having that whole reproductive system shut down in menopause, the changes, the highs and lows and the hormonal shifts, there is power in that," she continued. "But, we were taught to be ashamed of it. And to not even seek to understand it, or explore it for our own edification, let alone, to help the next generation."
Later, when Dr. Malone talked about turning 60 and now making it a point to do everything that she wants to do and to say no to the things she doesn't want, Michelle said that men give themselves this permission much younger.
"And let's stop there, so that the men that could be listening to this, hear this, because, they start doing that when they're 20," she said. "They adopt that philosophy much earlier in their lives. Men, it takes us, until we're 50 or 60 to feel free enough, physically and emotionally, to say, 'I'm going to think about what I want, and say yes and no to the things that bring me joy, or turn me off.' It takes us a lifetime to get there."
Michelle also talked about women rarely being happy with themselves physically.
"It is an exhausting way to have to live, and so many of us are doing it," she said. "Women of a certain age, we lose our value in society, unlike men, who gain value the older they get. You know, and those images are propagated on television, where you see the frumpy, funny old guy, with the young, vivacious, or even if she's our age, she is perfect. ... You know, the woman always looks a lot better than her husband in the movies, and it's like, 'Well, how is she with him?'"
"I've heard a lot of women my age, feel like as with each age, they feel less seen in a public place," she continued. "Because heads only turn in your 20s or 30s, or maybe 40s, if you keep up that bod, you know, in order to be noticed. Women are rewarded for not looking their age. It's like, 'Oh, she snapped back, she doesn't even look like she ever had a baby, she doesn't.' So that's essentially saying, 'She doesn't look like she's maturing.'"
"First things first -- I'm doing just fine," she wrote. "There's no reason to worry about me. I'm thinking about the folks out there risking themselves for the rest of us -- the doctors and nurses and essential workers of all kinds. ... So I hope you all are allowing yourselves to feel whatever it is you're feeling. I hope you're listening to yourselves and taking a moment to reflect on everything that's coming at us, and what you might be able to do about it."