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  • Should Celebrities Tell the Truth about Donor Eggs?

    Dawn Davenport

    70
    Celebrities having babies over 40

    Is it a celebrity’s responsibility to educated the public of the difficulties of getting pregnant over 40?

    First, let me say congrats to actress Laura Linney (Showtime’s “The Big C”) and her husband on the birth of their son a few weeks ago. Mazel tov! Hurray! A new life; a new family; a blessing; and given her age of 49, almost certainly a miracle of medical science and donor eggs.

    Does Linney have an obligation to “admit” that she conceived with the help of donor eggs?

    How Age Affects Success of Fertility Treatment

    Using donor eggs to get pregnant is a great option for many couples struggling with infertility regardless of age, but for women over say about 42, it is often the only option. For women over 45 it is almost a guarantee.  We will be doing an upcoming Creating a Family show on Infertility Treatment in Women over 40, but the reality is that while we’ve made great advances in fertility treatment and pregnancy rates are increasing, most of these advances have not applies to older women or women with premature menopause or diminished ovarian reserves. It is also the reality that donor eggs are not an inexpensive option.

    Should She Tell?

    Linney, of course, is not the only older celebrity to give birth in her late 40s. Kelly Preston had her third child in 2012, age 48. Susan Sarandon had a baby at 46, and Beverly D’Angelo had twins (with 65 yo Al Pacino) at 49. Holly Hunter also gave birth to twins at the age of 47. Geena Davis had her twins at 48, Jane Seymour had twins at 45, Marcia Gay Harden and Desperate Housewives’ Marcia Cross both had twins at 45 and Cheryl Tiegs had twins at 52.

    I’ve heard grumblings that these women, and the media coverage, perpetuate the myth that women can postpone motherhood into their 40s. But is it the celebrity`s responsibility to educate the general public?

    Every child is a miracle whether or not fertility medicine is involved, and the details of how someone gets pregnant is no one else’s business. Period. However, I do think it is important for the media to get the word out that fertility doesn’t last forever. They don’t have to do it in the same article talking about a birth of a new baby to an over 40 celeb, but they can still let the world know that you can’t wait forever to have children.

    Good genes and good doctors be damned, our bodies age regardless how beautiful and well preserved someone looks on the outside.

    What do you think? Even though it isn’t our business, should older celebrities be up front about the difficulties of getting pregnant after 40?

     

    Image credit: People Magazine in an article welcoming little Bennett.

    04/02/2014 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 70 Comments



    70 Responses to Should Celebrities Tell the Truth about Donor Eggs?

    1. Jenny says:

      I think it is something that must remain private. I also agree it is also necessary that people don’t get wrong. People have to admit that although science can help in these cases, fertility can not be extended for life…

    2. Janet says:

      I’m pregnant and I’ll be 47 when our baby is born. I did NOT…NOT NOT NOT have any sort of ART. We were NOT NOT NOT trying to conceive. And shocked is not a strong enough word for how we felt when we found out.

      When I went for my first prenatal visit, I was actually expecting a lecture about my age. None came. As a matter of fact, my OB has two patients older than me and a bunch over 42. I asked if I had to be monitored more closely etc. than younger women. She said that she often sees more complications with younger women than with women in my age group.

      Before reliable birth control was available women routinely got pregnant in their 40’s and even 50’s.

      I am a genius now compared to how naïve I was when I had my son over 25 years ago. And so far, this pregnancy has been easier.

      And because ART is a medical treatment, NO ONE should EVER even ask how someone conceived a child. But if you ask, I think it’s PERFECTLY appropriate to lie if you’re a celebrity.

      • Janet, I can only imagine how shocked you were, and how irritating it must be to have everyone assume you used an egg donor. I hope you’ve gotten over the biggest part of the shock and are able to enjoy the impending arrival.

    3. Marilynisbitter says:

      Also, I might add that nobody has the obligation to live their life in a way that makes it convenient for the CDC and other government agencies to collect data on them.

    4. Marilynisbitter says:

      Marilyn, using a donor egg is not adoption. Also, the woman who gives birth to the child IS actually defined as the biological mother, she is just not the genetic mother. Not everyone lies to their child about using a donor egg. Many parents are open about it, and did not even have an anonymous donor.

      You sound like one of those bitter adoptees or bitter birth parents (one or the other). Stop blaming your failures in life on anything else but you. Perhaps there won’t be a need for an overhaul of the adoption system, once people decide to start responsibly using birth control or stop having sex impulsively.

    5. Ali Jayne says:

      Definitely no one’s business…but as a single over 40 myself who would like to believe that if I find myself in a loving committed relationship with a great guy that I could still conceive naturally, and knowing if they have conceived this way would give me hope… :)
      And hope is sometimes all we need :)

    6. lisa says:

      Its a tricky question. I think parents have a right to privacy, but at the same time, secrets in the family are damaging. I think family has a responsibility to each other. Older relatives need to guide the younger ones. I find the issue of privacy a funny one because at some point somebody finds out about the donation anyway (like the younger female relatives, who will probably feel betrayed).

      As people learn more and more about fertility, they will put two and two together and figure it out. It seems that there is a lot of shame around this issue, like there used to be about adoption.

      In any case, I hope these celebrities are telling the truth to their children. I feel that is the best thing to do because I feel they have a right to know, and at some point they will probably figure it out anyway.

    7. lisa says:

      What if it is an older woman in your own family that gave birth to twins at 45, and admitted she used ivf, but said nothing about egg donation. Shouldn’t she tell her younger female relatives?

    8. marilynn says:

      Saying it does not matter how a child comes into a family is totally dismissive of the child’s other family if they have one. And when people are wondering if ‘she used a donor egg’, they are not really wondering about her health issues which are of course private, they are wondering if the child is really her offspring or not and if not they are wondering who the child’s biological mother and family are. It has nothing to do with her medical problems it has to do with where she got the kid she’s raising. Honestly I’m glad that people rumble about it because the kid is for sure going to find out at some point.
      These days many people who were born in the 90’s raised by a mother that was in her late 30’s or 40’s when they were born are just joining FTDNA as a matter of course because egg donation is kept so hush hush and because of the prevalence of women claiming to be biological mothers of donor offspring because they gave birth to them they can’t really trust them. They are finding siblings and cousins on FTDNA and on 23 and me and just not telling.

      • Marilynn, whether or not the celebrity parent (or any parent for that matter) should tell their child that they are donor conceived is not really the question being asked on this blog post. The question is does the celebrity parent have an obligation to tell the media. Some people have said yes because they believe a failure to do so perpetuates the myth that fertility extends to our mid 40s. Others think that celebrities are under no obligation to say anything to the general public because it is a private matter.

    9. Maura says:

      When I was going through IVF myself and found at age 38 that my eggs were no good I was very angry and I did blame part of my delay in childbearing on the current culture that celebrates having babies at late ages without discussing the extents many went to get pregnant and the expense of the treatment. However, both of my grandmothers had babies after 40, one had three after 40, so that also played a role in my thinking I had time. At that time I was very sure that Celebrities should come forward and discuss their treatments. I do feel that being a celebrity changes your right to privacy. Part of the reason they make huge amounts of money is because of their celebrity so it feels like they have made a bargain with the public and it is hypocritical to say “I want you to love me and pay lots of money to come to my movies and concerts, but don’t expect me to share anything about myself, don’t take any pictures, don’t approach me, etc.”

      My own exposure to DE, however, has changed my mind on the amount of sharing that needs to be done. What the celebrity is sharing is not so much their story, but their child’s story. The child has not chosen fame and deserves privacy.

      I agree with Dawn that they should not say they are surprised. It is misleading. There are different levels/types of surprise. They may be surprised the fertility treatment worked, but if they express surprise without sharing that caveat, the implication is that it was an accidental pregnancy.

    10. Lisa says:

      I think how anyone conceives a child is their own damned business. No one has the right to know anything this private about anyone else, no matter how famous they are…

    11. Michelle Kenoyer says:

      Whoa, maybe I’m not up on celebrity happenings all that much, but until I read more into this article, I had no idea that Laura Linney outright _lied_ about her having a baby via a donor egg. I’m still sticking to my original stance that it’s her and her husband’s business with regards to the type of fertility treatments they seek, and respect their privacy, but c’mon, _lying_ about it? That’s just stupid and needless (they could simply decline to answer any questions about their fertility treatments, rather than make up a lame story!). Also, as Dawn and others have pointed out, it’s dangerous to keep perpetuating the myths surrounding fertility over 40.

      Oy, celebrities…regardless, congrats to Linney and her husband on their new arrival.

      • Michelle, I don’t know if Laura Linney lied at all. In fact, I thinks she’s so far kept mum about the whole thing, including not telling anyone she was pregnant. It was others who I’ve read have expressed shock at finding themselves pregnant at 45+.

    12. marilynn says:

      Dawn thanks for keeping my comment up. Nobody else gets to hide the fact that they have offspring but gamete donors. There is no right to pretend you do have offspring or that you don’t have them. It’s a public health issue and exempting donors from having to be named as parents of their own offspring is a major public health nightmare.

      With all the lip service given to “telling the kids the truth early and often” yet that truth they are telling is not memorialized on paper on the birth record of the person they gave birth to. Their right to keep their medical information private is fine and dandy but it is not their medical information that they are keeping private, its the medical information of the person that they wish to be the biological parent of. They falsify another person’s medical record, their identifying vital record of their existence to serve their own private agenda and it undermines the ability of the CDC to manage and understand the spread of disease in the general population. They use information from original birth records as the basis for tax funded medical research on heritable disease, birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Millions of people each year are lying and saying they are parents on the original birth records of other people’s offspring instead of recording their parents and identities accurately and adopting their offspring in court above board and on the record all because its cheaper, faster and has the added bonus of making them appear to be the biological parents of the child they are raising. Our nation’s vital statistics are now so mired in biological inaccuracies as to undermine the credibility of any research based on that information.

      Public health is gauged largely by whether or not the population is healthy enough for reproduction. We now have statistics that make it look like people who are too ill or elderly for reproduction are actually healthy and reproducing at an alarming rate popping out fraternal twins left and right. Simultaneously it appears that more and more people of childbearing age are living childless appearing that there is something wrong with the reproductive function of healthy young people. Something is terribly wrong if we are not smart enough to record the most prolific reproducers in society as the parents of their own offspring. They have 10, 20, 30, even 100 or more children a piece all living in the same metro area for the most part and the vast majority of their children are recorded and living life as if they are only children, rather than part of a massive sibling group or part of their absent parent’s larger family.

      There is no privacy when it comes to having to be identified when you have offspring nor is there nor should there be a right to falsify other people’s medical records in order that the world will play along with some twisted charade a lie that benefits only the liar. Think of all the people whose lives are negatively impacted because the biological parent failed to be recorded on their offspring’s birth record. It’s not just their offspring that have to live with the fallout from that lie, its us too and the offspring’s absent maternal or paternal relatives who have no idea they have 50 full first cousins living in the same county as them attending school with them going to prom with them. What ya’ll are trying to say is her right to keep private is information that impacts people other than just her. When information impacts other people’s ability to make healthy sound reproductive decisions for themselves, when it interferes with their understanding of who they are in relation to other people on this planet, when it undermines CDC’s ability to understand who has children and who does not, then its not her’s to keep private. The fact that our laws allow just one person to be the gate keeper and arbiter of information that belongs to other people but defines them and their identities is absurd and entirely market driven.

      CDC is now spending more of our tax money having to make follow up calls to try and get people to admit if they are not really the parents so they can separate out their fake birth certificates from the ones they think are probably accurate. Its a mess and all we have to do is make them tell the truth. We should not be accommodating people’s lies.

      I’m sure you all want to hear nothing but rosy stories but there is a lot of fall out from getting someone else’s offspring without doing it in the normal ethical way in court and on the record. It is just black market adoption it has the same end result which is a person’s original birth record is falsified to look like they are the child of people who raised them even though they are not those people’s offspring. That is the hallmark of black market adoption. It’s surely not the exchange of cash as that’s totally rampant these days even in court approved adoptions sadly. Adoption needs an over haul too. But its starting from a place that requires disclosure and recording for the public record. Now all we need to do is prevent them from falsifying documents to lie to adopted people and we’ll be making headway.

      • Whoa Marilyn, you got a lot more out of this question that I could ever have imagined or certainly intended. I don’t think anyone has an obligation to share any info on their diseases, or how their children came into their families. I do think they should tell their kids, but that’s because it is important info for their children to have and know, but this telling is a private family matter, and quite frankly none of my business. It does irritate me when they give public misleading statements. They don’t have an obligation to educated the public about infertility over 40, but they do have an obligation to not perpetuate that myth.

    13. Greg says:

      I don’t think it’s anyone’s business nor do I think they are obligated to disclose anything. I mean it’s nice when they do disclose to bring awareness to IF but it’s their life.

      Anyone who has gone through IF and has not forgotten where they came from would respect their privacy.

    14. Bren M. says:

      I’d rather they talk about miscarriages and infertility – they’re doing so raises awareness and helps us know it happens to everyone no matter who they are. I think the donor egg thing is ok for them to keep private. Or surrogacy. They are allowed to have a private life. We don’t own every second of their persona. Some only go the route because of age – and I think that’s their decision and fall under “nunya”..none ya bidness.

    15. Leilani W. says:

      :) ha. Sorry Dawn. It just makes my blood boil. Just because I don’t share genes with my kids doesn’t make them less mine. Nor am I under any false impression that they share my genes. I’m not ashamed of our struggle or the lengths we went to in order to have children!

    16. Catherine T. says:

      “Catherine, I think it is misleading to say anything about being surprised. While not specifically a lie, it is certainly a dark gray area.”

      I dunno….no one could have been more surprised than ME when I saw that second line on the stick after my embryo transfer. And when I saw that second “circle” on the ultrasound screen, I almost fell off the table I was so shocked.

    17. Leilani, point well taken!!!!!

    18. Leilani W. says:

      You know, with replies like marilynn’s (and not just on this blog post but past blogs as well), it doesn’t surprise me that people aren’t more open about DE. MY son is adopted and MY…yes…I said MY child due in March was conceived through DE. We will be very open about it with our child and have been open about it with family and close friends. But responses like that discourage rather than encourage people to be open.

    19. Leilani W. says:

      It is her child. God I hate that. Is my son not my son because he was adopted??? Such ignorance. I don’t think anyone should have to tell their business to the general public, but I totally agree that acting like it was a surprise and saying those types of things is very misleading. I do feel they should be open with the child, it is then the child’s story to tell.

    20. Catherine, I think it is misleading to say anything about being surprised. While not specifically a lie, it is certainly a dark gray area. Why not just say : We’re thrilled. No need to perpetuate the myth that surprise pregnancies happen at 49.

    21. Lisa says:

      I think how anyone conceives a child is their own damned business. No one has the right to know anything this private about anyone else, no matter how famous they are…

    22. Also, now that egg freezing is becoming more common, more women might well be using their own frozen eggs rather than a donor egg.

    23. Lorraine, yeah, it might be nice, but I don’t think they have the obligation to say anything at all.

    24. Lorraine N. says:

      I understand the point of this article but no one should have to share something so personal. It would be nice if they did.

    25. Kari says:

      P.S. Dawn, I don’t know how I’d survive without your podcast. So, thank you!

    26. Kari says:

      I think it’s up to them. But, wouldn’t it be nice if they did? It would be wonderful if I could stop hearing from my mom “But, all these celebrities are having babies at 45+ and you’re only 35. So, just relax!”

    27. Milie says:

      marilynn – “of course she should tell the truth. Its not her child”. Tell the truth to whom? The general public? It’s not their child either.

      To everyone else – I want to point out that anything ART entails is medical information and as such, it’s protected by HIPAA. Therefore, in addition to our moral obligation to respect celebrities’ privacy, we have a legal obligation as well.

    28. Michael Recant says:

      My wife and I both incorrectly assumed there was no problem getting pregnant in our 40s based on celebrity publicity back in the 1980s/1990s. Now I don’t blame the celebrities (we should have educated ourselves) but with celebrity comes a responsibility because one has the ability to send very strong societal messages. I would hope that celebrities would take this responsibility seriously by using their celebrity to educate (like Angelina Jolie) rather than to propagate myths.

    29. M says:

      Upon reading the article a second time, I see that Dawn began with such a note of celebration and congratulations to the new mother and the new family-we need more of this!!!

    30. M says:

      Marilynn-your disdain for and prejudice towards IF people who seek to build their families through alternate means (adoption and 3rd party reproduction) has been duly noted in other comments on this site. Please remember that this is a site meant to HELP and support those of us who are looking for information about our options, and kindly keep opinions such as “it’s not REALLY their child” to yourself-such opinions are not helpful and may even be classified as hurtful and discriminatory towards those of us with IF-after all, we do not possess the physical ability to build our families in what you define as a “real” way-which is of course the biological, unassisted, old fashioned route. Who are you to say what makes a real family or what makes someone a real parent? Sometimes what makes someone a REAL parent goes above and beyond DNA and genetic connection.

      Okay, rant over…as for a celebrity’s “obligation” to reveal how they built their families-if they wish to educate the public on some of the realities of what they went through so that others can become better informed, more power to them, but I wish that we as the public could spend less time scrutinizing how these famous people build their families and more time being happy for them for what they have been able to do after years of struggle to become parents. Isn’t that what all of us who come to parenthood from the challenges of IF want at the end of the day-someone to celebrate with us as we realize our dream of becoming parents, instead of condemning us for not doing it the “real” or “natural” way. That is my hope for all IF Prospective Parents (adoptive or via 3rd party reproduction or otherwise)

    31. I respect the celebrities’ privacy, but do wish some would be more open about conception methods. As my cousin says, “Data is not plural for anecdote.” I think many young women are mislead by anecdotes and think that they have plenty of time to conceive when in fact, their chances diminish as their age increases. Great column!

    32. While I don’t think celebrities should lie about how they got pregnant, it’s really none of our business if they decide not to disclose certain information. We infertility bloggers talk about how sometimes we need privacy and how we don’t want certain people in our life to know. Celebrities are people, too, and I can imagine they feel the same fears, frustration, and sadness we feel over infertility (except minus the financial stress, perhaps). Just because you experience infertility doesn’t mean you have to become an advocate for infertility. Some of us choose to do that and some of us choose not to. Celebrities shouldn’t have to put every single aspect of their lives out in the open, especially if it involves children.

    33. I hear you Amy. I also struggle with how journalist should best handle this situation. With a 49 year old, should they ask? (no) Do they have an obligation to run stories about diminishing fertility? (yes) Should these stories be run close in time or in the side bar with the story of the new celebrity mother?

    34. Amy D. says:

      I do think we need to weave into the discussion, though, the entitlement to privacy owed to the donor conceived children, this is their conception story. To out the parents, we are also outing the child and well, that is just not fair.

    35. Amy D. says:

      I think most of our colleagues share this same thinking, Lisa R. and Dawn Davenport

    36. Catherine T. says:

      “It was such a surprise” is probably true. After all, who isn’t surprised when they get their BFP after any kind of IVF?

    37. Rosie G. says:

      I take those comments at face value. It isn’t my business, and it may well be true in any one case.

    38. [Her business, absolutely!!!! Just don’t lie, that’s all I ask. Don’t offer information that you know is untruthful and misleading and may raise the hopes of other women who then won’t seek treatment.] Lisa, that’s where I come down on this issue also.

    39. Michelle Kenoyer says:

      It’s Laura Linney’s child, whether the egg was hers or not. She carried her baby for 10 months and gave birth to him, so he’s just as much her son as one who is biologically/genetically related or adopted.

      And no, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business whether celebs seek donor eggs or not. They live such public lives already; let’em have a little privacy *somewhere*…

    40. Michelle Kenoyer says:

      IIRC, Elizabeth Edwards (RIP) gave birth to her youngest child at age 50 or 51. (She and her husband were infertility patients.)

    41. OK, but what about those who say things like: “It was such a surprise.” “We weren’t planning this.” I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, but I think they should just say nothing.

    42. marilynn says:

      Of course she should tell the truth. Its not her child.

    43. Kari H. says:

      I agree with the comments above, but I do have a bone to pick when Kelly Preston and Halle Barry talk about “what an amazing surprise!” it was and “what an unexpected joy” it was to find that they were pregnant. Seriously?! When they paid thousands and went through likely multiple treatments to conceive, it’s hardly a surprise or unexpected.

    44. Lisa R. says:

      Her business, absolutely!!!! Just don’t lie, that’s all I ask. Don’t offer information that you know is untruthful and misleading and may raise the hopes of other women who then won’t seek treatment. I get that it would be really difficult to say nothing or even, “mind your own business” to the media and public. There is a difference between lying and privacy though. Don’t you think?

    45. Jill says:

      Absolutely not. Unless they want to share… if a private person used donor eggs, they don’t need to announce it.

    46. anon says:

      God for bid we leave it up to celebrities to educate everyone about medical information! Jenny McCarthy has singlehandedly reduced the amount of vaccines that parents give their children based on her own theories about the link to autism. I think this is one for the medical community, thankyouverymuch.

    47. Catherine T. says:

      I don’t think anyone–not even celebrities–should have to share their personal business with anyone else.

      Also, women in their mid to late 40s may not necessarily be using donor eggs. They might be one of the few women who remain fertile well into their 40s, or they could be using embryos that they froze several years ago. With egg freezing now more widely available, I would expect that celebrities (along with other women) would also go that route and this would enable childbearing at a later age without using donor eggs.

    48. Sarah B. says:

      Nope. Sure it would be nice to get some positive pr/education about our pet issue, but the child’s right to privacy trumps that. If the celebrity wants to be out with it, more power to them; otherwise, they should be allowed to manage this dialogue with their kid like the rest of us.

    49. Sue T. says:

      I thought that this was a thoughtful blog on the issue too: http://blog.pved.org/?p=232

    50. Erin C. says:

      No. I really don’t think it’s their responsibility. Reproductive choices are between a woman, her mate and her doctor. Period.

    51. Rosie G. says:

      No, I don’t think omission in this case is lying. Some stuff just simply isn’t public unless people want it to be. Just like when people who adopt a child who looks like them don’t tell everyone they casually meet that the child is adopted.

      Celebs don’t owe us much of anything — sure, they are public figures, but their children aren’t, at least not by choice.

    52. Lori S. says:

      Personally I think a lot of women are unintentionally misinformed by seeing celebrities pop out babies after 40. While I don’t believe they should be forced to tell the world such personal information, I do believe that their lack of saying anything perpetuates a horrible myth. I find it somewhat unfair and cruel.

    53. Amber F. says:

      If you consider this omission lying…then they all do.

    54. Rosie G. says:

      True, though I don’t think it’s the job of some actress to educate us about medical stuff. :p

    55. I hear you and I agree that no one has an obligation to tell anyone anything about how they conceived their child. I don’t think they should lie however. That would just perpetuate the myth that fertility lasts into your mid to late 40s.

    56. Amber F. says:

      I think they’re honest enough. Most of them claim to use IVF and as a donor egg baby parent, I know that it is an incredibly personal decision. The only person they have to justify it to are their children and ethically should tell them of their donor origins, but that may or may not happen. At any rate, they are the mother and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters!

    57. Rosie G. says:

      I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, really. They can keep it private if they wish — just as anyone else can. Sure, people will speculate, but I also think that our culture is at a point where people speculate about twins in general — “Are they, you know, natural twins?” *wink wink*

      But twins happen naturally and so do older pregnancies in some case. My friend’s grandmother had her last baby at 50, long before such treatments were available, let alone widely known. So while I doubt that ALL of those celebs used their own eggs, etc, I wouldn’t be shocked if one or two didn’t use/need a donor.

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