Celebrities welcoming babies in their 50s are giving women false hope over their own chances of conceiving later in life, experts warned today.
TV host Victoria Coren Mitchell this week revealed she had given birth to daughter June Violet at the age of 51 after keeping her pregnancy a secret.
Her delivery followed that of supermodel Naomi Campbell, 53, who welcomed her second child in June and told fans ‘it’s never too late’ to become a mother.
But fertility specialists fear such success stories could convince women to believe they can naturally conceive later in life or that fertility treatment is easy.
For most women aged over 45, the odds of becoming pregnant naturally stand at around 1 per cent.
Victoria Coren Mitchell (pictured in 2018) and husband David yesterday announced the arrival of their second child — a baby daughter named June Violet. The TV host, 51, who already shares eight-year-old daughter Barbara with the comedian, took to Twitter to confirm the news after keeping her pregnancy secret. The news was later confirmed in The Times with an announcement which read: ‘On 26th October 2023 to Victoria and David, a daughter, June Violet sister to Barbara’
While British fashion icon Naomi Campbell (pictured in September), who has welcomed two children in her 50s, has never publicly revealed the method in which she had either of her daughter or son, or shared their names, she has insisted her first born is biologically hers. Following the arrival of her latest child in June, Campbell also stated that it was ‘never too late to become a mother’. There has been widespread speculation Campbell used a surrogate , a method that is becoming increasingly common and used by the likes of Kim Kardashian
More than five women aged 50 plus gave birth every week between 2019 and 2021, according to the Office for National Statistics. Some 824 women over the age of 50 gave birth between 2019 and 2021, the equivalent of 275 per year. This is an almost 20 per cent increase compared to the 701 for the three years prior
Egg supplies steadily dwindle with age before diminishing completely during the menopause. And, over time, they accumulate mutations in their DNA which can increase the risk of eggs failing to properly develop.
Chances are slightly increased with IVF, which can cost up to £5,000 for one cycle privately.
Data suggests women in their 20s and 30s need two to four cycles, on average, in order to get pregnant.
Success rates fall closer to the 4 per cent mark for women over 44, however.
Some might then choose to use donor eggs to boost their chances, although this option can cost an additional £3,000 due to extra add-ons.
Which celebs have welcomed children after 50?
Victoria Coren Mitchell, 51
Writing on X on Wednesday, Victoria Coren Mitchell said: ‘Many people are assuming my tweet yesterday was a Halloween costume.
She added: ‘Not at all; last week I had a baby and nothing currently fits me except cloaks. Luckily, Only Connect is a pre-record. Happy All Saints Day!’
She also confirmed the news in The Times with an announcement which read: ‘Mitchell on 26th October 2023 to Victoria and David, a daughter, June Violet sister to Barbara.’
The couple welcomed Barbara in 2015.
Naomi Campbell, 50
Naomi Campbell welcomed her first child in May 2021, at the age of 50.
While she has not revealed the method in which she welcomed her daughter, she has said she is biologically hers.
In June, the British fashion star also took to social media to announce she had welcomed her second child, saying ‘it’s never too late to become a mother’.
There has been widespread speculation she used a surrogate, a method which is becoming increasingly common.
Janet Jackson, 51
In January 2017, Janet Jackson gave birth to a son, Eissa Al Mana, who she shares with businessman and former partner Wissam Al Mana.
Following the announcement that Jackson had given birth to Eissa, her representative said she had a ‘stress-free healthy delivery’.
She has never divulged whether she had been on any kind of fertility treatment, but said it was a ‘gift’ to give birth at age 50.
Brigitte Nielsen, 54
Brigette Nielsen welcomed her daughter Frida, with her husband, Mattia Dessi, in 2018 after more than a decade of failed IVF attempts.
In an interview with The Guardian in 2019 the actress and model revealed they had been told they had only a 2.5 per cent chance of success.
‘I was always like: “I want to do it until there are no more embryos left”. Somebody has to win the lottery.’
Others, who can afford it, might choose to freeze their eggs in their 20s or 30s before using them later in life.
But that can cost around £5,000 for collection and freezing, on top of annual storage costs of up to £350 per year. There is the price of thawing and transferring the eggs to the womb, which costs around £2,500.
As a result, ordinary couples can be left in thousands of pounds worth of debt from forking out for fertility treatment in later life.
Dr Ippokratis Sarris, a consultant in reproductive medicine and the director of King’s Fertility in London, told MailOnline: ‘Getting pregnant naturally [in your 50s] is possible.
‘But they tend to be individual cases rather than something you can put in a statistic, less than one per cent.
‘It’s quite uncommon and unusual, we’re talking about a handful of women.
‘A lot of people also don’t realize how things change with age, or they think because they’re older, fertility treatment can help them. Actually, fertility treatment does not overcome ageing per se.’
He added: ‘There is a trend. When you have stories on someone in their 50s — and we should be very open that these are nice stories — there’s nothing wrong with it, but many don’t necessarily say how it happened.
‘Was it natural? Frozen embryos? With a donor? People see that and think if they can, then so can I.
‘A small proportion of women will fall pregnant in their late 40s and 50s. They might think that’s okay and it can happen to anyone. It doesn’t.
‘Positive stories are great. But the reality is that is an exception, not the rule.’
Dr Catherine Hill, Fertility Network UK’s head of policy and public affairs, said: ‘Age and fertility are intimately entwined for both women and men.
‘For women, their fertility vital statistics are 28, 35, 42.
‘By age 28, female fertility has already begun to fall, by age 35, it declines markedly and by age 42, the chances of having a biological child are vanishingly small.
‘However, every woman is unique… and some women can have children using their own eggs after their early 40s.’
Hans Gangeskar, CEO of IVF start-up Overture Life, said: ‘Egg freezing and donor eggs are not the only options for women over 50.
‘Some women over 50 conceive naturally, and some women over 50 are able to do IVF with their own eggs retrieved contemporaneously.
‘Both of these are rare, and in particular, IVF with eggs retrieved from women over 50 has low rates of success.’
He added: ‘Wealth — whether it goes along with celebrity or not — certainly has an impact on the number of IVF cycles a woman or couple can afford.
‘Rich celebrities can afford several IVF cycles, which might be out of reach for the average woman or couple.’
It comes after Coren Mitchell and husband David this week announced the arrival of their second child.
The TV host, best known for hosting BBC quiz show Only Connect, already has an eight-year-old daughter Barbara with the comedian. She took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to confirm the news before it was formally announced in The Times.
She is among a growing group of celebrities experiencing motherhood in their sixth decade.
British fashion icon Campbell, who has welcomed two children in her 50s, has never publicly revealed the method in which she had either of her daughter or son.
Following the arrival of her latest child in June, Campbell stated that it was ‘never too late to become a mother’.
In 2017, singer Janet Jackson (pictured in October) also gave birth aged 50 to a son, Eissa Al Mana, who she shares with businessman and former partner Wissam Al Mana. She has never divulged whether she had been on any kind of fertility treatment, but said it was a ‘gift’
Brigitte Nielsen (pictured in July) welcomed her daughter Frida, with her husband, Mattia Dessi, in 2018 after more than a decade of failed IVF attempts. In an interview with The Guardian in 2019 the actress and model revealed they had been told they had only a 2.5 per cent chance of success
While conception rates vary for individual women, statistics from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence show fertility levels generally begin to fall off by the late 20s and then rapidly decline from the mid-30s onwards
In 2017, singer Janet Jackson also gave birth aged 50 to a son, Eissa Al Mana, who she shares with businessman and former partner Wissam Al Mana. She has never divulged whether she had been on any kind of fertility treatment, but said it was a ‘gift’.
Meanwhile, actress and model Brigitte Nielsen added daughter Frida to her brood in 2018, aged 54, following more than a decade of failed IVF attempts.
More than five women aged 50 plus gave birth every week between 2019 and 2021 (824) in England, compared to the equivalent of one a week in 2001, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Experts believe the increase in older women conceiving is because they are opting to have kids later in life while they pursue careers, relying on medical advances and fertility treatments as a fallback.
But women hopeful of becoming parents in their 40s and beyond don’t just have to contend with the reduced odds of conception.
They also, experts warn, face an elevated risk of suffering from complications during pregnancy.
Fertility specialists have also previously highlighted how older celeb pregnancies risk ‘glamourising’ being an older mum without highlighting such risks.
For example, older mothers are more likely to suffer high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, miscarriages and stillbirth.
As well as that, their babies are more likely to be born with congenital abnormalities, such as Down’s syndrome, as the quality of a woman’s eggs decrease with age and are more likely to have too many or too few chromosomes.
Dr Sarris, also an honorary senior clinical lecturer at King’s College London, said: ‘As we become older, we tend to have more medical problems.
‘So then when you put when you superimpose on to that the pressure of pregnancy and the actual stress to the body, it is quite a stressful event for the body to be pregnant.
‘It is important to say though, complications of pregnancy can happen at any age. It is very important not to discriminate against older mothers and older women.
‘There are a lot of women in their 20s or 30s, with multiple medical problems, who become pregnant either naturally, or with help.
‘Although ageing itself increases risks, in obstetrics and in medicine we treat a lot of people with medical problems at any age.’
On top of that, women can face gruelling side effects, ranging from hot flushes and feeling down to the potentially life-threatening ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.
And while one cycle lasts around six to eight weeks, most women will require more than one to fall pregnant, meaning they may undergo the gruelling treatment for months.
Kayleigh Hartigan, an advisor on the Women’s Health Care Strategy group, once described it as ‘not like going to the spa’, despite celebrity success stories glossing over the trials and tribulations.
Data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) shows the average age of mothers in England and Wales has increased since the 1970s, now reaching 30.9 years as of the latest figures
Dr Hill added: ‘Women can also choose to have fertility treatment using donor eggs from a younger woman, which will increase the chance of reproductive success in their late 40s or early 50s. ‘
She told MailOnline: ‘There is no age limit in the UK for private fertility treatment for either women or men.
‘Fertility clinics assess each individual on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the known health risks for mother and child of pregnancy and childbirth in older women, and the health risks associated with older fathers, men over 40.’
Professor Adam Balen, an expert in reproductive medicine and former chairman of the British Fertility Society said: ‘We advise people should start trying for a family by their late twenties or early thirties if possible — the earlier you start the greater the chance of having more than one child.
‘If you think you might have a problem, get checked out sooner rather than later as NHS waiting lists are lengthy and NHS provision of fertility treatments is limited.’
Up to one in seven couples in the UK face difficulties conceiving.
But under current NHS guidelines, women over 42 cannot receive free fertility treatment due to the low chance of success.
Private clinics, however, are free to set their own criteria.
Around 55,000 Brits went through the gruelling process of IVF in 2021, latest figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) show.
The divorced mother-of-one, now 79, who lives in a Suffolk village with her pre-teen, said at the time of her pregnancy: ‘It will be just me and my baby.
‘I know some people won’t understand, but I don’t care’.
She added: ‘It doesn’t interest me that I’m going to be the oldest mum in the country. It’s not my physical age that is important, it’s how I feel inside. Some days, I feel 39. Other days, I feel 56.’
She sought treatment abroad after two decades of fertility heartbreak. She had two rounds of IVF treatment in her forties before she was told she could no longer continue with the procedure.