Have Celebrities Warped Our Beliefs About Getting Pregnant?

Truths about donor eggs and fertility treatments

Angelina Jolie with her children Amanda Thompson

It seems like the media constantly bombards us with information about celebrities who have successful pregnancies. Jessica Simpson gets pregnant again when her first is only several months old. Angelina Jolie goes from having two gorgeous adopted children to a brood of six, including three that are biologically hers. Now we're hearing about a number of actresses who are over 40 and pregnant: Rachel Zoe at 42 and Gwen Stefani at 43, to name two. And, seemingly achieving the impossible, Halle Berry at 46 (and emphasizing that the pregnancy occurred "naturally," no less).

It's no secret that the average maternal age at childbirth in the U.S. has been increasing and that there are record numbers of women in their 40s who are having their first children. Assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), is one reason why this trend is possible. I often hear women in their mid-to-late thirties, with no current plans to expand their family, say, "Oh, I'll just seek fertility treatment when I'm ready. After all, if Rachel Zoe, Gwen Stefani, and Halle Berry can do it, why can't the rest of us?"

It is not impossible for the rest of us to get pregnant past 40 — we hear stories all the time of people who know people who conceived naturally after making it "over the hill" — but it is definitely less likely than it seems at first glance. Even when using an ART like IVF, the chances of becoming pregnant and having a live birth decrease rapidly after 40, and there has been no documented case of a woman becoming pregnant with her own eggs after age 45.

Let me repeat that last part: her own eggs. This is the key. When a woman undergoes IVF, she can either use her own eggs, or she can use donor eggs. Donor eggs typically come from young, healthy, well-adjusted women who are paid a large sum of money to donate their eggs. This increases the likelihood that the offspring will have good genes. But, the catch is that a woman carrying a fetus with a donor egg will not be biologically related to her child. This is the crux of the problem with which so many women struggle. How do I explain this to my child? How do I explain this to others? Will others judge me for my choice? Does using donor eggs mean something bad about me?

Continue reading this article about Celebrity Culture and the Myth of Fertility on YourTango.com.

Written by Dr. Amy Wenzel for YourTango.com

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