Early in October, the headlines in the entertainment industry heralded the first-time pregnancy of actress Hillary Swank at age 48. She didn’t just find herself pregnant. No, there’s even more: She’s expecting twins, in what she called a “miracle.”
But was it actually a miracle, or a modern miracle (of science)? Medical professionals in the field of fertility were less than confident that Swank’s pregnancy was the result of natural conception.
Odds of “miracle” pregnancy @ 48 are effectively zero. IVF success even at 44-45 yo is low single digits.
This is from donor egg or long frozen eggs/embryos.
I’m thrilled for them! And no one needs share their medical history.
But public knowledge re: fertility & age is VITAL. https://t.co/9M0xrk33xx
— Paula Brady, MD MFA (@DrPaulaBrady) October 5, 2022
In an interview, Swank said she’s “feeling great right now” and that twins run in her husband’s family. The probability of twins doesn’t go up when there are twins on the father’s side of the family, but they do go up with the use of fertility treatments.
Juxtapose this messaging — that a pregnancy almost certainly achieved with the help of assisted reproductive technology is a “miracle” — with that of actress Jennifer Aniston, who revealed for the first time that she had undergone unsuccessful fertility treatments in her pursuit of motherhood. People magazine explained, “Aniston didn’t give any timeline to her IVF journey, Allure noting that it was simply ‘several years ago.’ But now at 53, she said she has ‘zero regrets’ to how things worked out.”
It’s an important message for women to hear, that Aniston, presumably in her late 40s, with all the wealth in the world, was unable to get pregnant. There are some things that money cannot buy, and the manipulation of one’s biological clock is sometimes one of them. That’s especially true for those without significant wealth. Swank and other stars, like Janet Jackson (who gave birth to a child at the age of 50) are outliers, and are without question pouring resources into their motherhood journey the average American does not have. But for most women, it’s simply not possible, no matter how much money is spent on the process, to achieve a pregnancy well into one’s 40s.
Women are becoming mothers later and later in life. Over the past three decades, birthrates have declined for women in their 20s and jumped for women in their late 30s and early 40s, according to a spring 2022 report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The result: A median age of U.S. women giving birth for the first time moved from 27 to 30, the highest on record.
If Hollywood stars are going to model pregnancy and birth as something naturally achievable well into a woman’s 40s, that trend could continue, only with more women facing the disappointment that inevitably results in a failure to achieve the desired result: a…