Tammy Duckworth And Other Well-Known Moms, Make Fertility After 50 Look Easy. But Is It?

By Cindy Dampier
Chicago Tribune

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Dr. Helen Kim, chief of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Chicago says the cutoff age for attempting motherhood has shifted. “When I was a resident,” Kim says, “if you had a 35-year-old mother, that was an old woman having a baby. Today that’s so normal.” Many IVF clinics once refused to treat women over 45, but today that number is more typically set at 55.

Chicago Tribune

When Sen. Tammy Duckworth welcomed her second child, it was cause for celebration, not only because she had become the first sitting senator to give birth or because she has already begun to challenge the Senate to change its rules to allow her to bring her infant on the floor with her during voting. In giving birth to Maile Pearl Bowlsbey, Duckworth, a combat-injured veteran who has overcome considerable obstacles in her life, beat the odds yet again.

At 50, she became one of a growing number of women to have a child at an age once considered an unlikely, unwise or even irresponsible time to attempt new motherhood.

Times have changed.

The most recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that, though the overall U.S. birthrate continues to fall, among women over 40, there has been a 4 percent increase. Can the baby boom be explained by advances in medicine? Yes and no, says Dr. Helen Kim, chief of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Chicago.

“I don’t think anything medically has happened that has dramatically increased the reproductive lifespan,” she says. Instead, the change has come with another, more readily available, technology: egg and embryo freezing, and donor eggs and embryos.

“There is a huge increase in the number of people who are doing egg donation or embryo donation,” she says. “In the most recent reporting year, there were something like 20,000 embryo transfers of donor eggs or embryos. I think that’s where the bulk of these older moms are coming from.”

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