Having children in your 40s - what's the reality?

19th December 2011 in Fertility

Celebrity magazines are full of stories about older stars who’ve easily had children later in life. But what’s the reality behind the headline?

Having children in your 40s isn’t impossible. But statistically, it’s unlikely to happen naturally. Purely because once you’re in your 40s, your egg quality simply isn’t good enough anymore. And more often than not, if you do get pregnant it’s more likely to result in complications or end in miscarriage than a healthy baby.

So what can you do if you want children at this age? What about IVF? Remember that IVF  as a procedure wasn’t designed to give you a baby because you’ve waited too long to get pregnant naturally. It was designed to help those where the egg wasn’t meeting with the sperm for whatever reason – such as  problems with the sperm, or blockages in the fallopian tubes.

Undergoing a typical cycle of IVF still involves using your own eggs. And so the problem with egg quality remains if you’re in your 40s. It’s why IVF is so much more successful the younger you are when you undergo treatment, because the younger you are, the better your eggs are.

Maybe surrogacy? Again, host surrogacy – where the pregnancy is carried for you -  isn’t the right treatment because your surrogate would still be using your eggs. Host surrogacy is when there are problems preventing you from carrying the pregnancy yourself, due to issues with your uterus – not issues with your eggs.

And so we come to donor eggs. In reality, if you are over a certain age, IVF with donor eggs is the only real option which carries any chance of success. You can be sure that many of these older Hollywood celebrities who have ‘easily’ had children in their mid-40s, probably used donor eggs. Indeed, Marcia Cross from ‘Desperate Housewives’ is one of the few who have actually admitted to using donor eggs when she became pregnant with her twins at the age of 44.

But for now, the main problem is that the media regularly feeds this myth that having children in your 40s is an easy, natural occurrence. And so we have more women than ever putting off having families, because they falsely believe that either they’ll just get pregnant when they want to, or that  modern assisted reproductive techniques can overcome anything which may crop up. Sadly not.

Although science has come a long way, we can’t stop the ageing process and halt the natural decline in fertility. If more of these older women stopped the trend of ‘keeping mum’ and told the truth about how their children were conceived, perhaps there would be more awareness amongst women about their own fertility.

Because the truth is that, unlike America where donors get handsomely paid for their eggs, donor eggs are hard to come by here in the UK. There’s a huge shortage of egg donors, and although egg-sharing schemes and our site www.manchesterdonors.com are helping, women who do need a donor egg often face a long wait of months or even years. What needs to happen is that this long-list of women waiting for eggs doesn’t get any bigger simply because women have falsely believed what they’ve read in the media.

This information was published 7 years, 11 months ago and was correct at the time of publication. It may not reflect our current practices, prices or regulations.