Do you remember a few years ago when there was a push to raise women's awareness of when fertility dwindles? I think it was an initiative from one of the reproductive endocrinologists' groups (maybe this one), frustrated by how many of their patients were heartbroken to discover, now that they were finally ready to start a family, that their eggs were pretty well cooked. Why have so many women been in the dark about this, thinking that age 40 was a fine time to embark on a first baby? I blame the media attention given to celebrity pregnancies, where it's seldom hinted that a woman in her 40s or 50s might have required assisted reproductive technology (ART).
Case in point: this week's news that actress Marcia Cross, age 44, is pregnant with her first child, quite soon after her wedding. Nowhere in the article does it mention fertility treatment. This gossip piece reports that she and her husband were seen leaving a fertility clinic, but Cross's publicist, of course, omitted any mention of ART.
It's possible Cross and her husband relied on IVF and perhaps donor eggs. But with all the media attention showered on famous 40-somethings who are pregnant—and the conspiracy of silence on ART—American women can easily get the message that fertility after 40 is quite unremarkable, just another natural, happy circumstance.
I recognize that everyone has a right to medical privacy, and that you don't necessarily want your child learning they came from donor gametes via a Google search. But time and time again, the media leaves out the details that remind people that the average woman is going to have infertility issues if she tries to get pregnant in her 40s.
Jane Seymour gave birth to twins at age 45; at that time, I don't recall seeing a mention of IVF, although she has acknowledged it since then. But might she have used donor eggs? Could be. Cheryl Tiegs claims to have used her own eggs—at age 52!—and a gestational surrogate. (I concede it's possible that Tiegs was the 1-in-500 case with viable eggs at that age...) Geena Davis was in her mid-40s, and I've never seen any acknowledgment of ART in her case.
Last year, I blogged about Joan Lunden, who used a gestational surrogate twice, starting at age 49, and now has two sets of young twins. (That's in addition to three grown children from a prior marriage.) The pregnancies used Lunden's husband's sperm, but the Good Housekeeping article I blogged about delicately avoided using the words "egg" and "donor" (though an infertility-savvy reader could pick up the implication of donor eggs).
I don't begrudge affluent, famous, biologically middle-aged women the joys of pregnancy. I just wish that they didn't perpetuate the stigma of donor eggs, donor embryos, and gestational surrogacy by omitting their personal details, while simultaneously propagating the false impression that it's easy to get pregnant at that age. And I wish the media would be far more responsible in their reporting of these late-in-life pregnancies.