Fertility experts have warned about the realities of trying to get pregnant over the age of 40, after supermodel Naomi Campbell, who has welcomed her second child at the age of 53, told fans ‘It’s never too late to be a mother’.
British fashion star Campbell, who already has a two-year-old daughter, revealed her happy news to her 15.2million followers across the world on Instagram yesterday, saying she’d welcomed a baby boy.
The star, estimated to be worth over £60million, already has a daughter – with both children believed to have been born via surrogacy.
One leading fertility expert has warned against Campbell’s advice that ‘it’s never too late’ to become a parent, saying that having fertility treatment isn’t ‘like going to a spa’, with often brutal consequences on both health – mental and physical – and finances.
Kayleigh Hartigan, an advisor on the Women’s Health Care Strategy group, told MailOnline: ‘While it’s wonderful for Naomi – and every individual has different personal circumstances – it’s important that we support people to make informed decisions.
‘Fertility treatment is not like going to the spa, it’s an intense medical procedure and often it happens over many, many years.’
Congratulations: Naomi Campbell, 53, welcomed a baby boy this week, with the supermodel announcing the news to Instagram on Thursday – telling her 18.5million fans on Instagram: ‘It’s never too late to become a mother’
She continued: ‘People think if you have IVF it might last a couple of months, but that’s not typically the case – people might go through several rounds of treatments, then people start to turn to donors or surrogacy – it’s a very long and intensive process.’
The reality of how gruelling procedures can be aren’t always made transparent by private fertility clinics, says Hartigan.
‘For example, egg stimulation can require injections into the abdomen sometimes multiple times a day over many weeks, if you’re older, you might have to take additional hormones to prepare your body – physically, it’s a huge undertaking.’
Treatments can also be extremely expensive, says Hartigan, who is the founder of Fertility Mapper, a community-led platform that invites people to share their experiences to increase transparency and clarity for those undergoing or considering fertility treatment.
‘Every round, whether that’s IVF, IUI, surrogacy or using a donor has a cost associated with it. People are starting families [which is expensive] after an already massive investment. For a lot of people that means debt – either borrowing from families or commercial lenders.
‘Because a lot of treatment is paid for privately – whether it’s IVF, assisted reproduction or egg freezing – it’s ultimately a private market and in that context people are consumers as well as patients.’
Campbell pictured in May this year; the fashion star is thought to be worth more than £60million
The current reported estimated figures for IVF treatment are around £5,000 for one round but it’s thought that sum falls widely short of what people should expect to pay – because it doesn’t include the cost of medications or consultations.
‘The likely figure is closer to £10,000 per round, and many people will have around three rounds of IVF.’
Dr Gill Lockwood, an age-related fertility specialist at Fertility Family, is an advocate of ‘social egg freezing’ to give older women the chance of genetic motherhood but urges caution to those considering later life parenthood.
Dr Lockwood told MailOnline: ‘Women are increasingly aware that natural fertility declines with age and 35 years is often quoted as a ‘cut-off’ point.
In March, Naomi celebrated Mother’s Day by sharing photographs with her daughter
Arrival: Naomi announced she had become a mother with a surprise Instagram post, four years after crediting science with giving her the opportunity to start a family ‘whenever she wants’
‘However, this arbitrary age has little scientific backing and, in the UK, only 50% of women will have had a first baby by the age of 30.
‘Fortunately, the vast majority of women will be able to achieve successful pregnancies at older ages although it may take longer to conceive, and the risk of miscarriage does increase quite steeply from 38 years onwards.’
She adds: ‘The risk of early miscarriage for women aged 40 who can conceive is 40 per cent.’
In 2021, the number of overall live births per thousand women (both natural and via fertility treatment) was 55.85 births but for people over the age of 40 it’s 16.2 per thousand.
Hartigen says: ‘Culturally, perhaps because we’re not used to women having babies over the age of 45, the data actually cuts off at 45 – so the data we have is for women between 40 and 44.’
Women are born with a finite number of eggs, and one of the reasons for the ‘fertility cliff’, she says is that by the time women reach their forties they have less eggs, and they’re often poorer quality, which can contribute to miscarriage.
We’re likely to see far more older parents though, says Hartigan, because people are living longer, and are more active for longer so the idea of having a child in your 40s and 50s is becoming more popular, particularly with options such as egg-freezing.
The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) reports that while 2,500 patients froze their eggs in 2019, that number had risen to 4,000 by 2021.
HOW DID NAOMI BECOME A MOTHER AT 50 YEARS OLD?
Naomi has not revealed the method in which she welcomed her daughter but has previously spoken about her many options for starting a family
Some mature mothers choose to have a baby via surrogacy, when someone has a baby for a couple who cannot have a child themselves.
Straight surrogacy uses the surrogates own eggs to conceive and can take place at home using artificial insemination, using an insemination kit or via a clinic using IUI or IVF with the surrogate acting a known egg donor.
Surrogacy is legal in the UK, but it’s illegal to advertise for surrogates. No financial benefit other than reasonable expenses can be paid to the surrogate.
Naomi previously hinted at looking into surrogacy when she said: ‘I think about having children all the time. But now with the way science is I think I can do it when I want.’
Naomi Campbell pictured with her daughter, two
More mothers are waiting until later in life to have children, but pregnancy after 50 is still quite rare.
A woman’s fertility begins to decline in her early 30s. After age 35, her number of viable eggs starts to fall more quickly.
However celebrities have made headlines for having kids in their later years, including Janet Jackson who had her son, Eissa Al Mana, at age 50.
Naomi said she wanted to welcome a child with a partner, stating: ‘I do want a father figure. I think it’s important. It’s the way I feel today, sitting here talking to you’
She also hinted at wanting a traditional family set up when she announced: ‘I want the same things as every other woman: the house, the kids, the lot’
In another interview she said: ‘I’d love to have kids. I don’t discount anything in life. I love kids and always will.’