This time it’s Holly Hunter who joins a growing number of famous women
having twins astonishingly late in life. They include Beverly D’Angelo
(who had her twins at 49 with 65 year old Al Pacino), Geena Davis (who
had twins at 48), Jane Seymour (45), Marcia Gay Harden (45) and Cheryl
Wow. Despite the fact that a woman’s fertility rate is virtually zero
by her mid-forties, there’s something in Hollywood’s bottled water that
keeps rich and famous ovaries pumping out multiple eggs well into
middle-age. Or not. Fertility experts scoff at the idea and point to
Hollywood’s dirty little pregnancy secret: egg donation.
“Celebrities may be different from you and me, they may be better
looking but one thing they’re not is more fertile” a Beverly Hills
doctor told US Elle magazine recently. This doctor has helped several
middle-aged stars have babies with donor eggs and describes it as the
last taboo of infertility. More about that later.
Famous or not, the most common cause of infertility in women is age. Too many of us simply leave it too late – for a whole bunch of reasons. Sadly, after a certain point there’s nothing you can do to increase the number of eggs you have or extend their expiry date.
That’s not to say that every pregnant woman in her forties has had fertility treatment. I personally know two women who fell pregnant at this age unexpectedly and without IVF, let alone egg donation. But as they themselves acknowledge, they are the exception; the proverbial one in a million.
For the other 999,999, the reality is very different.
One of my friends had IVF at 33 and was shocked to discover her fellow patients were all in their mid to late forties. “They looked visibly desperate,” she remembers. “It was so sad. I felt like saying ‘go home, save yourself the heartbreak.’ How could they believe anything would make them pregnant at that age? Then I picked up a magazine to see Geena Davis pregnant at 49 and I suddenly understood.”
This is a frustration that doctors on the frontline of infertility face every day. “A pregnant actress in her forties gets a page in a magazine,” says Dr Ric Porter, director of IVF Australia. “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”.
No woman is obliged to tell the world how she got pregnant, famous or not. Infertility is an intensely difficult and personal experience.
But to safeguard our own fertily and our self-esteem, we need to start filtering “miracle” celebrity pregnancies through a reality-check. Which brings us back to Hollywood’s donor egg explosion.
Getting pregnant using someone else’s egg has become an increasingly popular option for infertile women in America where the average egg donor recipient is aged 43.