Does She or Doesn’t She? (Only her fertility specialist know for sure)
When we look at celebrities like Elton John, Ricky Martin, or Neill Patrick Harris who have had children over the years it’s a no- brainer that they used an egg donor to create their families. But when we hear about female celebrities around the globe who have had children in their 40’s, we wonder – “Did she or didn’t she?” Society perceives that if you look young, your eggs are young. However, the reality is when you are in your mid-forties and early fifties, your eggs aren’t going to work even though your body may very well carry a pregnancy to term and you may look great doing so. So why all the secrecy surrounding celebrities who may or may not have used egg donation or IVF treatment in general. Is it ego? Is it shame? Is it because infertility treatment equates to being older which equates to being less marketable as far as Hollywood, Bollywood or the rest of the entertainment world is concerned?
Is IVF and egg donation the global entertainment world’s dirty little secret? Now, we’re not saying that any of the following women used IVF or egg donor to have their children… in fact, most have not admitted reproductive help of any kind (although some did admit to at least IVF help – particularly the ones who used gestational carriers). But take a look at the following list and draw your own conclusions:
- Geena Davis, an American actress, had her twins at 48.
- Jane Seymour, an English actress, had her twins at age 44.
- Nicole Kidman, an Australian actress, was 43 when she had her daughter with the help of a gestational surrogate.
- Cherie Blair, wife of England’s former Prime Minister gave birth at age 45.
- Susan Sarandon, an American actress, had a baby at age 46.
- Somali-born model Iman, married to rocker David Bowie, gave birth at 44.
- Helen Fielding, an English novelist/screenwriter best known for her character Bridget Jones, gave birth at 48.
- Arlene Phillips, an English choreographer, gave birth at age 47.
- Holly Hunter, an American actress, had her twins at 47.
- Cheryl Tiegs, a global icon in the world of modeling, had twins at age 52.
- Marcia Gay Harden, an American actress, was age 45 when she gave birth to her twins.
- Helena Bonham Carter, an English actress, had her baby at age 42.
- Joan Lunden, an American television personality, went on to have two sets of twins at age 52 and 54 with the help of a gestational surrogate.
- Elizabeth Edwards, the former wife of American presidential hopeful John Edwards, gave birth to her daughter at age 48 and her son at age 50.
- Kelly Preston, an American actress and wife of John Travolta, gave birth to a son at age 47
- Halle Berry, an American actress, is currently pregnant and 46.
- Mira Sorvino, an American actress, gave birth to her last child when she was 44.
- Mariah Carey, musical superstar, gave birth to twins at age 42.
- Beverly D’Angelo, an American actress, was 49 when her twins were born.
- Sarah Jessica Parker, an American actress, had twins with the help of a gestational surrogate at age 44.
- Nancy Grace, an American television personality, was 47 when she brought her twins into the world.
- Farah Khan, a well known-prestigious Indian film director, gave birth to triplets at age 43.
Relates story: Expiration Date Concerning Childbearing
When our bodies aren’t cooperating and doing something that we believed our whole lives we could or would do, it’s simply devastating.
The whole topic of infertility, IVF, egg donation – it’s just so socially taboo. It’s no wonder that regardless of who you are – public figure, celebrity, or the woman next door, it’s not the most favorite topic to talk about at a cocktail or dinner party. We don’t view infertility like we do breast cancer. Infertility is still in that shameful place that breast cancer was many years ago until public women like Betty Ford brought it out into the forefront and made those of us afflicted with breast cancer into survivors and heroes – as well we should be. Until we change the mindset about infertility and embrace it like we do breast cancer, it’s always going to be that thing that no one wants to talk about. Now, celebrities may be different than the rest of us. They may have more money. They might be prettier, more privileged but guess what – they aren’t more fertile. That’s a myth that has been perpetuated over the years because no one is talking about it. This means that regardless of how famous you might be, the most common cause of infertility in a woman who is in her middle forties is her age. And for a myriad of reasons, many women – not just celebrities wait too long to begin their family building – and after a certain point there’s not a thing you can do to make more eggs because our eggs have an expiration date. The reality is regardless of where you are in the world, AMH and FSH levels don’t lie. By the time a woman is in her mid-forties, her fertility rate and percentage of success to conceive naturally is just about zero. Okay, okay we hear you – not every pregnant women who’s in her forties has undergone any sort of fertility. However, be mindful they are the exception to the rule – like one in a million – for the rest of us in the world our reality is very different. Dr. Ric Porter, Director of IVF Australia was quoted as saying: “A pregnant actress in her forties gets a page in a magazine, but if those same magazines printed all the stories of all the women who couldn’t get pregnant, the magazines would be the size of the yellow pages. These celebrity ‘miracle pregnancies’ give women ridiculous expectations. I’m yet to see a patient who had viable eggs in her mid-forties. Even with IVF, we’ve never had a pregnancy after age 45.” It is what reproductive endocrinologists all over the world face every day on the front lines – explaining to women who are in their mid-forties the realities about their fertility, and giving them the sad news that for them to become a mother is to give up her genetics and seek the help of an egg donor.
Should celebrities make public service announcements about infertility much like celebrities make public service announcements about every other cause they are personally affected by?
Granted no woman is obliged nor should she ever be forced to share with the world how she conceived, regardless of whether she’s famous or not. Infertility is incredibly hard, private and personal. However, all of this miracle pregnancy mumbo jumbo that we see in all of the magazines, the internet, and television by celebrities has got to stop. We aren’t doing ourselves any favors by drinking the fertility Kool-Aid and believing everything we read. This is about protecting your own fertility by being informed and aware of the facts. It’s also about protecting your self-esteem. Back in 2000 Larry King asked Cheryl Tiegs if she used an egg donor to conceive her twins and her reply was: “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.” This left me saying aloud “Really Cheryl, you’re 52, really?!” What’s even more interesting about the whole Cheryl Tiegs thing is when she and her husband divorced, Cheryl lost custody of her newborn twins to her husband. I know it made me stop and say “Hmm.” I wonder what the rest of the world thought. The message that’s pumped into the media is that for women like you and me who are looking into the fishbowl of “celebrityville” it can be incredibly misleading – it equates to false hope and being complacent about your reproductive health.
So why aren’t more famous women speaking out and being honest about their fertility or infertility issues?
Lauri Berger de Brito of the Agency for Surrogacy Solutions in Los Angeles says, “The presumption is that if you look young, your eggs are young.” For men it’s like the old adage: “Men are like fine wine they get better with age”. Men can continue to manufacture sperm until they die – take a look at Tony Randall he was in his mid-80’s when he became a father. However, in Hollywood, Bollywood, or wherever you are in the world, getting older does not go hand in hand with fertility – women are not perceived as getting better with age especially when it comes to their eggs.
But wouldn’t it be lovely if just one celebrity would come forward, be vulnerable and say: “I am a mother via egg donation and I am proud.”