Presidential Infertility Throughout American History

Infertility Among American Presidents
US Presidency: A Job Not for the Faint of Heart (Courtesy:

Michelle Obama recently revealed in her book, Becoming, that she and President Obama were infertile. Both Malia and Sasha were conceived with IVF (in vitro fertilization) in the 1990s when IVF was only about two decades old. A hard story to tell (I’m sure) but an important one to hear from one of America’s most popular first ladies.

Childless Commanders in Chief

Presidential infertility is not new. In fact, it likely existed at the start of the US Presidency: George and Martha Washington were childless. And so were James Madison, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan and Warren Harding. Given that Buchanan was the only single president, that leaves six infertile presidents to date. That’s 14% of presidential couples with infertility, the exact same proportion we find among all Americans.

Infertility-inducing Illness

Of course, it’s nobody’s business but there’s reason to believe that male factors were the cause of presidential infertility in the past. Washington had smallpox and tuberculosis, both of which could have caused sterility. We know that the other infertile presidents had one or more of the following infertility-associated conditions: smallpox, urethral scarring and mumps orchitis.
What about President #44: Barack Obama? His risks for male factor infertility include a history of smoking, possibly older paternal age and, most certainly, stress. Although he only smoked about half a pack of Marlboro Reds daily, he started in college, giving him a 10-year history of smoking at the time of family building. And the effects of tobacco on sperm quantity and quality are well-defined. Regarding paternal age, we know that sperm DNA fragments more as men age, but this is not as dramatic for a 40-year old as it is for a 65-year old. The issue of stress is the elephant in the room: as any first lady would readily admit, you don’t shoot to the top as a rising star in politics without working pretty hard at it. And stress affects both fertility and also speeds up the aging process.
The point is, keep calm, keep cool, don’t smoke, and protect and serve the best asset that you will ever have: your health. By taking great care of yourself, your fertility will serve you best. To learn more about alternatives to IVF, schedule a consultation with Dr. Turek at The Turek Clinic today!