Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Miracle Babies (IVF)

We've just passed our de-paganized egg celebration and all sorts of cute and fuzzy Hollywood coverbabies are on display. That's J-Lo (38) and her $6 million dollar fraternal twins on the front of this month's People magazine.

And Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon (41) has posed with her fraternal twins for JET magazine.

Dennis Quaid and his wife Kimberly (36) were recently in the news when their fraternal twins were mistakenly overdosed in the hospital shortly after birth.

Lisa Marie Presley (40) has just announced on her MySpace page that she is expecting (rumored to be twins just like papa Elvis).

Previous seasons' lineups also featured a lot of multiples. Julia Roberts led the way with premature fraternal twins in 2004 at the age of 36. The stork brought fraternal twins for Beverly D'Angelo (49), Angela Bassett (47), Geena Davis (48), Holly Hunter (47), Jane Seymour (45), and Marcia Cross (44) as well.

Hmmm. Noticing a trend here? Older mothers? Twins anyone?

And then there's the current batch of singletons. Nicole Kidman (40) is 5 months pregnant and to make sure everyone knows, she donned a hideous see-through Prada dress back in February.

Minnie Driver (38) has announced her pregnancy, but the sperm donor is unannounced.

Cate Blanchett (38) is having her third child this April.

Gwen Stefani (38) is about to pop number two.

Julianna Margulies (41) just gave birth to a boy.

Helena Bonham Carter (41) delivered with Tim Burton just in time for the release of their other collaboration, Sweeny Todd.

Halle Berry (41) gave birth to her first, Nahla Ariela, last week. (Nahla is Arabic for 'drink of water,' Ariela is related to the Hebrew for 'lion of god.') Was it easy to conceive? "...[T]here was a lot of staying home and doing what you do. Like, all the time, around the clock," she said on Oprah. "Did you know that they call this a geriatric pregnancy? I cringe when I hear that. I'm like, 'Take that off my chart!' "

So how is it that these famous "elderly" mamas are defying the laws of nature? God loves them more? Well....maybe. In the old Testament, Jacob has two wives, Leah and Rachel, who dealt with menopausal infertility by giving him their respective hand maidens. Infertility specialists are the modern version.

Let's start with a few definitions to wipe that vaseline coating off the camera lens.
MIRACLE: something that appears inexplicable by the laws of nature and so is held to be supernatural in origin or an act of God.
ELDERLY PRIMIGRAVIDA: a woman older than 35 years who is pregnant for the first time.
FERTILE: pregnant within one year of non-protected intercourse.

Everyone has a story about someone's perimenopausal baby miracle - but scientifically that's pretty much what such a pregnancy is: a miracle.

Statistically, a sexually active 40-year-old woman has a 5% chance of conceiving in any given month. A 30-year-0ld has a 20% chance. At age 42, 90% of a woman's remaining eggs are abnormal. These eggs come with an expiration date.

These late-in-life Hollywood babies create false perceptions about fertility that can devastate women planning midlife pregnancies, particularly those of modest financial means.

In vitro fertilization (IVF) is just part of the picture. In vitro is Latin for "in glass," ie, outside the living organism (or Hollywood womb if you prefer). IVF is the technique in which egg cells are fertilized by sperm in the petri dish. The fertilized egg (zygote) is then squirted into the uterus. To improve the odds, more than one zygote is transferred at one time, which leads to the rising incidence of multiple births.

The second piece of the picture is the egg itself. Egg quality is the primary barrier to pregnancy in older women. The live birthrate for IVF using a woman's own eggs is 25% for 30-year-olds, 16% at age 40, 9% at 42, 5% at 43, 2% thereafter. And retrieval of those eggs from hyperstimulated ovaries is no picnic either.

However, IVF pregnancy rates soar when the egg is donated by a younger woman and implanted into the hormonally-enhanced elderly uterus. It's safe to assume that the celebrity women pregnant in their mid-40s are using donor eggs. Some admit to it, most do not.

For a good primer on egg donation and gestational surrogacy (the borrowed uterus), Wikipedia is your friend.


Left to wonder said...

It does appear that late motherhood is being touted as some sort of badge of honor these days when actually it seems to be driven by very selfish behavior.
No doubt large sums are needed for many ivf procedures. Couldn't they just donate to a good children's cause?
What about the male partner's fertility?

Jennifer ""Fields of Gold"" said...

You sure hit the nail on the head!! lol...This coming from someone who left the country to do IVF due to financial reasons! Normal, everyday people cannot afford this medical procedure...No way. It'll bankrupt one, just like it's doing to me.
Love your blog.


Jennifer ""Fields of Gold"" said...

Btw, I almost forgot....

Check out how real people attempt IVF with limited sources.


ANNE said...


Anonymous said...

Several women in their 40's get pregnant without IVF. So it is not neccesarily "safe to assume that the celebrity women pregnant in their mid-40s are using donor eggs".

ANNE said...

Yes, statistically a very small number of women get pregnant in their 40s. The vast majority, however, are getting help - including these celebrities.

Anonymous said...

I have been through fertility treatments and learned a lot about fertility through my doctor. Many of these women are probably using egg donors. It is really very common, but people don't want to admit that they are using an egg donor.

ANNE said...

You and I are in agreement here. Most older celebrities keep this particular aspect (if nothing else) of their child-bearing confidential. We discussed the non-disclosure at length on-air and the potential impact that it has on the average woman struggling with infertility.

Anonymous said...

Many people may not wish to discuss their private medical business with the public. Can't say I blame them. While it would be nice for at least one celebrity to come forward and say "I used donor eggs", its not going to happen because the public would crucify her for not adopting instead. I totally support someone who wants to use a donor rather than adopt, but most of society does not at this point in time. I think we need to rid ourselves of the idea that people are obligated to adopt if its not the right thing for them.