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Mommy Movie Stars: Forever Fertile?

Here's what you need to know about your fertile health.

Istock/Tom Merton
Source: Istock/Tom Merton

If you’ve read about the movie stars having children in their 40s and 50s, you may be thinking, “Why should I worry about becoming pregnant? I’m still in my 30s!”

After all, Janet Jackson delivered at 50;

Beverly D'Angelo had twins with Al Pacino at 49;

Kelly Preston gave birth at 48;

Both Nancy Grace and Geena Davis had twins at 48;

and Hallie Berry had her second child at 47,

So, is the pressure to become pregnant before 35 or freeze eggs even sooner just hype? The research and statistics say no. Despite a recent poll by BabyCenter.com that found almost 75 percent of about two thousand respondents thought being fit and healthy were more important than age when it comes to fertility, the reality is very different. Age does count.

We’re born with all the eggs we will ever have and by age 35, it seems that nature thought we’d be eaten by a bear. Our ovaries are not full of healthy eggs the way they were when we were younger, and the number and quality of the remaining eggs have often declined. Despite individual differences in genetics and lifestyle, studies find that by the time we are 40, our chances of conceiving naturally are only about 5 percent in any given month—even if we were a beautiful movie star.

The good news is that In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) can help women with diminished ovarian reserve. IVF involves stimulating the ovaries so more than one egg is matured that month, extracting the eggs, fertilizing the eggs in the laboratory, and then transferring the most viable embryo into the uterus through the cervix. For these women, Dr. Alan Copperman, Medical Director of Progyny, explains that the question is no longer a simple, “Can I still get pregnant?”

“These days, many programs such as ours, Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, are screening the embryos prior to an (IVF) transfer. So, the question has changed. We now often ask, ‘How many IVF egg retrievals are necessary to create a healthy embryo.’ Once we have a healthy embryo, the implantation rate is actually greater than 50 percent, regardless of a woman’s age.”

That being said, there are few pregnancies, even with IVF, from eggs retrieved from women over 45. And between ages 45 to 49, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the chances of a woman conceiving naturally in any given month with her own eggs drop to less than 1 percent.

So, what’s going on in Hollywood? A lot of exceptions to rule? Some women over 45, in Hollywood or not, may be pregnant because they’ve used eggs or embryos they froze when they were younger, used donor eggs, or are lucky and not the norm.

Here’s the advice from most fertility specialists: If you are under 30 and interested in starting a family eventually but not now, you may want to look into egg freezing. If you are over 30 and you’ve been trying to start a family without success for a while, you may want to consult with a fertility specialist about your hormone levels, ovarian reserve, and treatment options now. The Hollywood story is not that you can always get pregnant at any age with your own eggs. Instead, it is that there are many ways to have a baby and many ways to build a family.

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