Have you heard? Janet Jackson is pregnant at 50. Amazing, right? It just goes to prove that you really can keep putting off having children until you’re ready, and that women can get knocked up at any age. So, take your time. Build your career, travel. Babies will always be there.
Except that none of this is true. Not really.
I think it’s important for people to grasp the reality of what’s going on with these stories of older celebrities getting pregnant. Because women have been led into this false belief that they have all the time in the world to start a family. I hear it all the time. “Oh, I’m only 35. Maybe I’ll have kids later. There’s plenty of time…”
But the truth, hard to face and perhaps inconvenient, is that there isn’t plenty of time. It’s far easier to have babies when you’re young. I think we need to start discussing this because the misconception has gotten out of hand, driven by several factors, one of them being images of celebrities in their late 40s sporting baby bellies and big smiles.
Halle Berry had a kid at 47, Susan Sarandon at 46, Beverly D’Angelo had TWINS at 49. It’s a long list.
But what you don’t see is what they had to do to get those baby bellies. It probably wasn’t doing the sexy time, but rather an extremely expensive and physically taxing combination of drugs and invasive procedures. It’s not fun, it’s not easy, and it doesn’t even work much of the time.
There’s this secret cabal around celebrities playing coy about their plastic surgeries and fertility treatments and it drives me bonkers. Women face enough psychological adversity without all this added BS, these false hopes, and unreasonable expectations.
My husband and I started trying to conceive when I was 36 and then I struggled with infertility for four years. I had nine fertility treatments that cost tens of thousands of dollars. I had seven intrauterine inseminations and two in vitro fertilizations. All involved massive amounts of hormones, pills, and injections, which cause mood swings, acne, bloating, and other issues.
I had one loss (a fetus death followed by a D&C [a surgical procedure where they basically suck and scrape all the now useless matter out of your uterus]), and two ectopic pregnancies. The first was treated with a chemotherapy drug that knocked out my immune system leaving me with a six-month respiratory infection. The second was treated with surgery, leaving me with one fallopian tube. My body is permanently damaged by hormones and trauma. I’ll never be the same.
Do you know what an IVF involves? It involves using the hormones to get you to produce more eggs – you usually produce one per month – then a doctor going into your uterus while you’re conscious and scraping out the eggs. It is insanely painful. Then they fertilize the eggs with sperm and hope that some grow into embryos. Those that do are then implanted back into your uterus and you hope for the best. I did this twice at $12,000 a pop. This brings us to money. Let’s not forget that rich and famous people have the money for all this while many of us mere mortals have to scrape it together. (In some Canadian provinces there is funding for this. In my case there was coverage for a fraction of the cost.)
Anyway, I was lucky to get pregnant the second time. Not everyone is lucky.
Here are some numbers:
- Women over 42 have a 9% chance of conception with IVF
- Women between age 40-46 have an average 46% chance of miscarriage
- During the two IVF procedures I produced 28 eggs, five embryos, and ONE live baby. This means that less than 5% of my eggs (3.57%) was successful.
Granted, Janet Jackson probably didn’t go through any of the egg scraping stuff because it’s highly unlikely she used her own eggs. Pretty much impossible, in fact. At 49 (I think, when she conceived) she’d have to use donor eggs, which you have to get someone to donate, something that is potentially more difficult for people who aren’t Janet Jackson.
Your egg quality declines over time. You’re born with all the eggs you’re ever going to produce and you release one, sometimes two, each month after you start menstruating. As you get old, so do your eggs. Your chance of conceiving starts to drop dramatically at age 35, and by age 45 it’s basically nil. That doesn’t mean nobody gets pregnant naturally in their forties. It means it’s much, much harder. In fact, every single woman I know who got pregnant over 40 did so through IVF. Every. Single. One.
And I have one 43 year old friend who has just given up on treatments as they were too much for her body to handle.
Also note that some people have fertility problems when they’re young. And if you’re one of those people, but you don’t even start trying until your thirties or forties, then you don’t even discover that you’ve that added challenge until you’re older and you find yourself trying to overcome those issues combined with age working against you.
My point? Having kids over age 40 can be really hard. And while it’s great to be Janet Jackson and all that, don’t be fooled into thinking this will happen to you too.
A family is just one factor to consider when planning your life. But if you want children and you wait too long, be prepared to realize that you might not be able to have them. If having children is important to you, you might want to think about doing that sooner rather than later.
Sorry. I just thought you should know.