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There’s No Business Like Show Business


Why older celebrities getting pregnant shouldn't be headline news.

a blog by David Kreiner, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.

The Fertility news is constantly highlighted in sensational headlines, the most recent of which was, “49 Year Old Woman Conceives with Own Egg through IVF.” In the past several months, readers have been entertained with “Octomom,” a “Woman Pregnant with a Dozen,” “Jon and Kate Plus Eight” and “a 62 Year Old Mother through IVF,” not to mention the numerous over 45- and sometimes over 50- year old celebrities having babies supposedly with their own eggs.

Reading these “news” stories one may get the impression that fertility is a thriving business bearing little resemblance to the medical specialty of reproductive endocrinology requiring seven years of post-medical school training.

The medical pioneers Drs. Steptoe and Edwards in the U.K. and Drs. Howard and Georgeanna Jones Jr. in the U.S. envisioned a world in which couples inflicted with the curse of an inability to procreate, would, with the benefit of their technology, have the ability to build their own families. They were excited that as the technology improved and became more efficient and the cryopreservation of embryos became routinely available, risky multiple pregnancies could be eliminated. They believed that insurance companies would pay for an IVF benefit that had a high success rate and could deliver healthy single pregnancies with far greater confidence than any alternative treatment, especially intrauterine inseminations (IUI). They were unhappy that, in the early years when IVF was inefficient, many embryos needed to be transferred in order to give a patient a reasonable chance for success. This resulted in multiple pregnancies, many of which delivered prematurely, requiring expensive neonatal intensive care and unfortunately, did not end well.

Women in their late 40s have a 70 - 80 percent chance for conception through egg donation. This is how the 50-something celebrities are getting pregnant. They are not using their own eggs. Misleading the public with news stories featuring these older pregnant celebrities gives patients the misconception that they too can create their families at the same age using their own eggs.

Recently, we performed IVF on two perimenopausal patients with FSH levels over 50 at age 45 after days of counseling regarding the extreme low odds of pregnancy and a live birth. In both cases, our patients felt they needed to give it one shot before moving on to egg donation. They had one follicle each and both resulted in pregnancies with a gestational sac seen on ultrasound. One has since miscarried and will now move on to egg donation where her odds of having a live baby jump from less than five percent to 60 percent per attempt. The other remains pregnant and is, miraculously, the exception to the rule.

IVF is a medical procedure that is part of a proud tradition of reproductive endocrinology. It is a medical treatment that can cure one of the cruelest maladies known to man, the inability to have a child. This problem is featured in the Bible with several references, including from the woman’s perspective, with Hanna weeping for a baby of her own. The Old Testament proclaims the commandment to procreate. Procreation is part of the human condition. Does it not make sense then that insurance companies provide the financial coverage to allow IVF, a treatment that can be controlled by transferring one embryo at a time to result in a singleton pregnancy? Regulations to prevent costly dangerous multiple pregnancies and the performance of IVF in patients with unreasonably low odds of success need to be instituted.

Financial programs that make it no more expensive to patients to transfer one embryo at a time (such as our Single Embryo Transfer program at Coast Fertility) need to be the news highlight of the day, not the 49-year old who conceived on her sixth try.

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