I’m concerned by a growing trend among female celebrities who are having children well into their 40’s. I think they’re sending a message of false hope to young women that having children later in life is as easy as Linsey Lohan avoiding prison.
Television lawyer, Nancy Grace, actresses Geena Davis and Holly Hunter all had twins at 47 years old. Al Pacino fathered twins with actress Beverly D’Angelo when she was 49, and most recently, John Travolta and his wife, Kelly Preston, age 47, are about to welcome a new edition to their family.
The birth rate for women age 40-44 increased 4 percent from 2007 to 2008, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contrast that to the birth rate for women below age 40, which went down as much as 3 percent from 2007 to 2008.
The March of Dimes and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists published the following statistics:
Higher risk of miscarriage
At age 20: 1 in 10 women
At age 35: 1 in 5 women
At age 40: 1 in 3 women
At age 45: 1 in 2 women
Higher risk of any chromosomal disorder
At age 20: 1 in 526 births
At age 30: 1 in 385 births
At age 40: 1 in 66 births
At age 45: 1 in 21 births
Higher risk of Down syndrome
At age 25: 1 in 1,250 births
At age 30: 1 in 1,000 births
At age 35: 1 in 400 births
At age 40: 1 in 100 births
At age 45: 1 in 30 births
At age 49: 1 in 10 births
At birth a woman is born with all her eggs. As a woman ages, so do her eggs. It is a commonly held belief that for a woman to conceive naturally after age 45 is next to impossible. So then how did these women do it? The answer is simple: in vitro fertilization (IVF).
IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. IVF is a complex and expensive procedure; only about 5% of couples with infertility seek it out. However, since its introduction in the U.S. in 1981, IVF and other similar techniques have resulted in more than 200,000 babies.
The clue that most celebrities in the forties are conceiving with IVF is that they are having multiple births, in most of these cases, twins. The chance of any of these women giving birth at their age without in vitro is unlikely. Yet, many of them do not disclose how they conceived.
I don’t know and there lies the problem.
IVF is not without consequence. It’s expensive. Sometimes it can take multiple attempts before a viable fetus comes to term, and these women have to endure hormone therapy which can affect mood and personality. But more importantly, IVF is really available only to those who can afford it.
Also there is the risk of multiple viable embryos. The most famous cases: Kate Gosselin and Nadya Suleman. Many couples have some of the embryos terminated in order to avoid multiple live births.
Recently, Sarah Jessica Parker had a surrogate carry her twins. I am going to go out on a limb but my Spidey senses tell me that she probably didn’t use her own eggs. Sure it’s possible that she had viable eggs. They would have had to been harvested and then fertilized in vitro with her husband’s sperm. Then implanted into the surrogate. I suspect that the likely scenario is that she purchased healthy eggs and then had them fertilized by Matthew Broderick’s sperm before implantation into the surrogate. It is also possible that Ms. Parker had her eggs harvested years ago with the foresight that she might want to use them later. Many couples harvest eggs, have them fertilized and then frozen for future use. I read that Celine Dion’s husband Rene had his sperm banked prior to radiation therapy so that they could attempt to have a child in the future.
My sister had all four of her children starting in her late 30’s. She had them all naturally and without in vitro. Thankfully, they are all healthy. She told me the benefit of having children later in life is that she was able to become established in her career. Also she felt that she and her husband were more financially secure when they were about to start a family.
I think having children at any age is courageous but the media and doctors need to be very clear that in vitro, harvesting eggs and surrogacy are all very expensive options that are not covered by insurance in most states. Hell, surrogacy is not even legal in every state. Yet, once a woman has delivered multiple births, the care for these babies is covered by insurances and most times, the babies are born prematurely. Do you know what kind of cost those kids incur before they are ready to leave a hospital? Let’s just say they could pay for college with that money.
BTW I don’t have any children and if I was going to, I’d adopt like Sandra Bullock but without Jesse James as the father.