Sophie B. Hawkins. Photo: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images
Singer Sophie B. Hawkins, 50, recently dropped a major baby bomb — not only is she expecting her second child (a little girl), she became pregnant using 15 embryos that she had frozen back when she was 31-years-old.
"Being 50 is actually an amazing age to have a second child because I am more wise, calm, humorous, appreciative, simple and clear," Hawkins told Us Weekly. “I’m not running around looking for love and validation. I live each day full of gratitude, and that’s good for my children.” She added that her pregnancy has been healthy but that the “risks emotionally seemed huge.”
Hawkins is just the latest celebrity to admit to having had fertility struggles. Kim Kardashian recently told reporters that she and husband Kanye West’s attempts for a second baby haven’t been smooth. “When you’re not planning it, it happens,” she said. “It’s just how God works. And when you want it so bad, it’s not happening.” Actress Courteney Cox and E! host Giuliana Rancic have also shared their multiple miscarriages and experiences with in vitro fertilization (IVF), and actress Jaime King recently took to Instagram to air her endometriosis diagnosis “for all the struggling women & moms out there who think they are alone.”
In real life and Hollywood, pregnancy is glorified to epic proportions — “bump watch,” maternity style, performance art announcements — but the road to baby has traditionally been a closed one. That’s especially true for older celebrities who give birth in their late 30s and 40s. Mariah Carey had twins at age 42, Jennifer Lopez at 38, and Julia Roberts at 37. Halle Berry also birthed her second baby at age 47. And while it’s unknown whether these pregnancies were natural (Lopez says she didn’t use vitro fertilization, Carey used the steroid hormone progesterone to prevent a miscarriage, and Roberts and Berry each deny using IVF), the odds of conceiving and carrying a healthy pregnancy later in life are low, according to experts. Still, the idea of delayed motherhood is appealing to many women who either have demanding jobs, married later in life, or aren’t entirely informed about their biology. And the lack of full stories from celebs can be frustrating for some women who find they can’t get pregnant once they reach a certain age.
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“I have patients who come to me saying, ‘Halle Berry had a baby at 47 — why can’t I?’ They’re shocked when I tell them that the odds of conceiving naturally at age 47 are less than one in 1,000,” Dr. Eve Feinberg, medical director at Fertility Centers of Illinois’ Center for Fertility Preservation, tells Yahoo Parenting. “It would be wonderful for women to understand that these celebrity examples are exceptions to the rule.” Having a baby later in life, in other words, may be more suited for stars who have the resources for various fertility options and flexible work schedules to effectively manage motherhood.
“Women are born with a fixed number of eggs and 400 menstrual cycles for which to release them. There are 40-something women with lots of usable eggs. However, by age 38 or 39 is when we really start to see a drop,” Feinberg says. “The truth is, humans aren’t that fertile — by age 25, a woman’s ability to get pregnant on any given month is 30 percent. At age 40, it’s 10 percent, and by age 43 it’s less than five percent.” Using a donor egg boosts the odds for pregnancy to anywhere between 60 and 80 percent, but it’s a costly and emotional process.
So do older celebrities may have a public responsibility to share the details of their extraordinary pregnancies? Not at all, says couples mediator Laurie Puhn, and author of Fight Less, Love More. “Pregnancy is a medical condition, and the expectation that celebrities would divulge such private information is unfair,” she tells Yahoo Parenting. “Conception is also a physical and emotional process, and a topic that can expose an unborn child to unwelcome scrutiny which could damage their sense of self or family. Parents should decide if and how their child discovers the manner in which they are conceived, not the public.”
What’s more, it’s unlikely that celebrities are staying silent on the issue of fertility because they’re ashamed. “These women probably confide in their close family or friends, just like anyone else,” she says.
Women do have a responsibility to be informed about their fertility, says Puhn. But the answer is to be found in the doctor’s office — not Hollywood.