In the latest episode of her new podcast, Michelle Obama opened up about her experience with menopause and shared how husband and former President Barack Obama tended to react to hot flashes. While some may shy away from discussing things like cramps, hormones, infertility, aging, and menopause, the former first lady wasn't afraid to get candid and personal in a discussion about women's health with Dr. Sharon Malone, an obstetrics and gynecology specialist based in Washington, D.C. on The Michelle Obama Podcast this week.
In an episode entitled "What Your Mother Never Told You About Health with Dr. Sharon Malone" that dropped Wednesday on Spotify, 56-year-old Michelle Obama revealed she experienced menopause while her husband was in office and hot flashes would occur at the most inconvenient of times.
"I had a few before I started taking hormones," Obama said in reference to hot flashes. "I remember having one on Marine One. 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 do this.'"
According to Obama, she wasn't the only woman to experience hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause around former President Obama. "Barack was surrounded by women in his cabinet, many going through menopause," she told Malone. "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."
But while some men may get uncomfortable when topics related to women's health are brought up around them, Obama said her husband didn't bat an eye. "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,'" she said.
Obama went on to talk about how cultural norms dictating women's appearance in the workplace and societal pressure for women to hide things like hot flashes make health issues like menopause or infertility more difficult. "It's an important thing to take up space in a society because half of us are going through this but we're living like it's not happening," the former first lady said. "Our power as women, our power and our voice also comes from our ability to value our health and the vessel that we exist in."
She argued that rather than allowing society to make women feel ashamed about the natural functions of their bodies, women should talk more openly about their health in order to shift cultural norms. "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," Obama said. "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."