With more and more celebrities getting pregnant later in life, you have to ask yourself if 40 is the new 20 when it comes to having babies? Asks Theresa Hackett
An increasing number of women are now waiting until later in life to start a family and the general age of women giving birth in Ireland is steadily rising.
In 2015, the average age was 32.5 with over 4, 000 births to women over the age of 40, compared with2, 566 in 2005.
From 2006 to 2011, the number of women over 45 who gave birth almost tripled.
Fertility clinics in Ireland are busier now than ever before, with age being the most common reason for visits.
Could a lifestyle choice to wait until later in life to start a family be putting our chances of natural conception in jeopardy?
And are we led to believe that conception later in life is easier than in reality, due to the number of high-profile older women giving birth?
Why does age affects our fertility?
Being a celebrity can get you fairly far in life but it tends not to extend the warranty on your ovaries.
What it can do is give the average A-lister access to expensive fertility clinics and doctors and cutting edge fertility treatments.
Unlike men who produce sperm daily, women are born with their lifetime supply of immature eggs, and they have a limited period of time during which they can naturally conceive.
As a woman approaches her mid to late 40s and her supply of eggs or ovarian supply depletes it becomes almost impossible for her to conceive.
On average, it takes three to four months for a healthy 25 year old to conceive, but it can take twice as long at 35.
By the time a woman reaches 39 years of age, it is not uncommon for it to take in excess of fifteen months to conceive.
There is a compelling list of high profile women in their 40s that are giving birth, and some even in their 50s, and so it is hard not to see this as confirmation that it is easier now to conceive later in life.
Carla Bruni give birth to a healthy baby girl at 43, Tina Fey conceived her second child at 40 and Mariah Carey had twins at 41.
In the last number of years Brigitte Neilson gave birth at 54, Eva Longoria at 43, and Janet Jackson welcomed her first child at the age of 50.
It stands to reason that celebrities experience the same difficulties with conception as the rest of us.
Yet very few celebrities are open about admitting when they have used assisted reproduction.
So what’s the real story?
It’s always possible for the odd woman to sneak through the statistics to conceive a healthy baby naturally well in to her 40s.
But that cannot possibly account for the number of Hollywood leading ladies in their 40s and 50s wheeling around double buggies.
Most of us will have heard of the most common form of assisted reproduction, in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which a woman’s eggs are fertilized by sperm in a laboratory before being implanted back in to the uterus.
Almost 2% of babies born in the western world are conceived through IVF. And there are even a few brave celebs who have been open about their struggles with fertility.
Actress Courtney Cox conceived her daughter Coco at 39, after many failed IVF attempts, and similarly, ‘Desperate Housewives’ star, Marcia Cross gave birth to twins, conceived through IVF, at 44.
But it is not just the number of a woman’s eggs that declines with age, the quality of those eggs deteriorates too.
The poorer the quality of the eggs, the far greater the risks of miscarriage. IVF begins and ends at conception; it cannot help a woman to maintain a pregnancy.
So is there something magical in the water in the Hollywood Hills enabling all these famous women to have happy, healthy babies later in life?
It is safe to say that one’s ability to act or sing does not have a strange and wonderful effect on one’s fertility.
Hollywood’s pregnancy secret could be egg donation.
Whilst some celebs like Courtney Cox and Marcia Cross are willing to discuss their experiences with IVF and other mums in the limelight like Sarah Jessica Parker and Cheryl Tiegs are open about their use of surrogacy to grow their families, using another woman’s eggs to have a child is the last taboo of infertility.
When Larry King asked Cheryl Tiegs if she had used an egg donor to conceive her twins with a surrogate at the merry old age of 52, she was quick to shoot down the suggestion.
“No, it’s my eggs and my husband’s sperm so they’re our babies.
I’ve been taking care of myself for so long, I know my reproductive organs are much younger than I am.”
Most fertility specialists will admit that having twins past your early forties is a strong indicator that an egg donor was involved, in the same way that a plastic surgeon will raise an eyebrow at a smooth-as-marble brow on a fifty year old.
And when celebs pretend they are naturally fertile into their forties and fifties, it has the same effect as when they pretend their size 0 frame has nothing to do with long days in the gym and sweating over whether or not to eat that second beansprout.
It’s misleading, it’s irresponsible and it makes the rest of us – who have to live with the pounds and wrinkles – feel fairly insecure.
Infertility is an intensely private and distressing subject and nobody should be forced to tell the world just how they got pregnant or the difficulties they experienced, famous or not.
But the next time you hear about a Hollywood A-lister, fast approaching middle age, who has just given birth to bouncing baby twins happily and naturally, just remember, there is nothing special in the water in the Hollywood Hills, they can just afford expensive airbrushing.
Assisted Reproduction in Ireland
In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)
Each cycle costs approximately €5,000 in Ireland.
Many couples may require an average of four treatments to conceive, that’s €20,000 per couple.
The cost is almost double that of standard IVF, averaging up to €10,000 per cycle in Ireland.
While surrogacy is commonly practised in other countries, in particular India, Ukraine and the United States, it is not currently catered for in Irish law and so can be fraught with difficulties, including an inability to bring the child back in to Ireland.
Irish couples may only adopt from countries that have ratified the ‘Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption’.
It may take anywhere from two to seven years to successfully adopt.
Acupuncture, reiki, manipulation and stress management have all been shown to improve a woman’s chance of conception.
The costs involved vary greatly, depending on the treatment type.
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