Struggling with infertility isn't exactly front-page news in Hollywood. On one hand, that's understandable -- fertility is a completely private matter and nobody's business (least of all the paparazzi's). On the other hand, considering the number of celebrities in their late 30s and early 40s having babies, you'd think women had an infinite number of years to start a family, and that's just not the case. "I have patients come in and reference actresses in magazines who are having babies at older ages and wondering why that can't be them," says Kathleen M. Brennan, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the UCLA Fertility and Reproductive Health Center in Los Angeles. "What they don't know is what that woman, oftentimes a celebrity, may have had to go through in order to get pregnant. I think it may be sending an unrealistic expectation of a woman's fertility potential."
Some stars -- like Nicole Kidman and Courteney Cox -- have gone on the record detailing their struggles and successes (Kidman used a surrogate for her second baby; Cox used IVF). Even Gwyneth Paltrow recently discussed having had a miscarriage and how difficult it was. Those stories are important because they balance the false notion that fertility has no shelf life and that it's easy to get pregnant and carry a baby to term in your 30s and 40s. "The fact is that a woman's fertility starts to decline in her 30s and becoming pregnant can become increasingly difficult as she ages," Dr. Brennan says. Yes, technological advances are making it possible for women to give birth later in life, but fertility treatment is pricey, both emotionally and financially -- one cycle of IVF can cost between $10,000 and $20,000. Celebrities can afford multiple cycles of IVF, but many couples are priced out of that option.
"Sex education is part of the curriculum in many schools, in an effort to help prevent unintended pregnancy, but I don't think we are teaching women about the inevitable decline in their fertility potential as they age," says Dr. Brennan says. That's not to say that you should put your career on hold to have kids asap, but women "should at least take the time to consider their fertility."
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