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Rise of celebrities having children in their mid-40s is 'causing a fertility crisis'


Rise of celebrities having children in their mid-40s is ‘causing a fertility crisis’: Older mothers are misleading women into thinking they can conceive naturally well into their fifth decade, says IVF expert

  • Famous older mothers may have relied on donated eggs, said Prof Adam Balen 
  • He said women in late 30s and 40s came to him every day about poor fertility
  • Among those over 42 who use donated eggs, live birth rates exceed 25 per cent  

Celebrity mothers who have children in their mid-to-late 40s mislead women into assuming fertility lasts well into the fifth decade, according to an IVF expert.

Rather than conceiving naturally, famous older mothers may have had to rely on donated eggs from younger women, said Professor Adam Balen, a former chairman of the British Fertility Society.

He said women in their late 30s and 40s came to him every day, saying: ‘I’m just amazed – I didn’t realise my fertility was so poor.’

Women who wanted two children should ‘seriously’ think of leaving it no later than 28 to start trying, Prof Balen added.

Celebrity mothers who have children in their mid-to-late 40s mislead women into assuming fertility lasts well into the fifth decade, according to an IVF expert (file photo)

Celebrity mothers who have children in their mid-to-late 40s mislead women into assuming fertility lasts well into the fifth decade, according to an IVF expert (file photo)

‘The chance of [fertility treatment] working goes down with age,’ he said. ‘The high-profile celebrities who have children in their mid-to-late 40s may be doing so with donated eggs rather than their own eggs, but, of course, they often don’t say that.’

Women in their 40s who undergo IVF treatment tend to produce fewer eggs – and of lower quality – than younger women when given drugs to stimulate production.

For those over the age of 42 who use their own eggs, the chance of a resulting embryo leading to a live birth is less than five per cent, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). 

Among those over 42 who use donated eggs, live birth rates exceed 25 per cent – about average for IVF as a whole.

Prof Balen, who is lead clinician at Leeds Fertility, said: ‘Women in their 20s should start seriously to think about when they might wish to start a family. A woman aged 25 has a 25 per cent chance of conceiving per month. At 35, it’s probably more in the region of 15 per cent. At 40, it’s probably only one or two per cent.

‘If you want to have the opportunity to have three children, you probably have to start trying when you’re 23. If you want two children, you can leave it until you’re 28. If you’re happy with one, probably start by the time you’re 32.’

Rather than conceiving naturally, famous older mothers may have had to rely on donated eggs from younger women, said Professor Adam Balen (file photo)

Rather than conceiving naturally, famous older mothers may have had to rely on donated eggs from younger women, said Professor Adam Balen (file photo)

Prof Balen also sought to temper enthusiasm for egg freezing, where a woman’s ovaries are artificially stimulated to produce eggs which are then cryo-preserved for when she might need them. ‘Egg freezing works but it’s not a guarantee,’ he said.

Dr Zeynep Gurtin, a women’s health specialist at University College London, who analysed the websites of 15 UK fertility clinics, accused them of making ‘misleading’ claims about egg freezing that gave women ‘false hope’. She said they gave ‘the impression the technology is more certain and more of a guarantee than it really is’.

In response, the HFEA said clinics must make sure their websites provided ‘information that is clear, accurate, comprehensive and as evidence-based as possible’.



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