Thank goodness for an article in todays Sunday Times Style magazine (don’t ask me why it’s in this section) challenging the myth of pregnancies without the help of an egg donor over the age of 44. Celebrities in particular are guilty of misleading women into thinking that having a baby in the second half of their forties is normal and easy, when the truth is that conceiving a first child at this age is highly unlikely. It is odd that occasionally the last child in a large family is conceived at this age – Cherie Blair was 46 when she had Leo, her fourth child, and a friend of mine had her fifth at the same age. But by and large, the chances of a woman conceiving with her own eggs after the age of 42 are tiny and most UK clinics will not do IVF with a woman’s own eggs after the age of 44 unless she absolutely insists on having a go, and then only if she is willing to pay for it.
Berger de Brito of the Agency for Surrogacy Solutions in Los Angeles says, “The presumption is that if you look young, your eggs are young.” de Brito has 45 year olds approaching her looking for a surrogate because they keep on miscarrying and assume that it is not possible for them to carry a baby. But what they really need is an egg donor. Women in their late forties and early fifties are usually perfectly capable of carrying a baby, albeit with slightly higher medical risks, but their eggs are too old to be able to make a baby without chromosomal imperfections that cause miscarriage. The sad truth is that eggs, or ova to use the scientific term, don’t know that you are slim and look 35 when you are 45. As Laura Witjens, Chair of the UK’s National Gamete Donation Trust says, “Women think, I do yoga, eat only organic food and don’t smoke – I’ll be one of the lucky ones” but women are born with a finite number of eggs (unlike men where sperm is manufactured in a three monthly cycle) and those that are left after 35 or so age rapidly.
There is absolutely no shame in having a child – or twins as it often is – with the help of an egg donor but it is doing women in general a great disservice for people in the public eye not to admit to their method of conception. As the article says, if only one ‘celebrity’ would come out and admit it she’d do a huge favour for women who feel like failures and she’d probably get a great press for herself as well.
September 2014 update: Here’s a great story about an Australian ‘celebrity’ unafraid to share the fact of egg donation and a known donor as well. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2739345/Pregnant-Sonia-Kruger-says-understands-egg-donor-special-bond-unborn-child.html