Something as natural as having a baby can often be more difficult than it seems. Fertility problems apply across the board, among us ‘normal’ citizens and among celebrities equally. But fertility treatments have become more and more advanced, and those with the means to invest in these expensive treatments often have the opportunity to conceive when traditional methods fail.
Figures show that in the western world, women are waiting longer to have children. And of course, the later in life you begin trying to conceive, the harder it can be. Doctors were brutally honest with E! star Giuliana Rancic when they told her that at 35, her eggs were “old”.
And for celebs, there’s the added spotlight factor. What so many men and women suffer in relative privacy becomes tabloid fodder if you are a celebrity. Tabloids are incessantly on the lookout for “baby bumps” and the pressure can be unrelenting. Recent tabloid headlines touting Angelina Jolie’s “miracle baby” at the advanced age of 38 says it all, while paps seem to be on 24/7 watch for Jennifer Aniston to sport her bump.
Infertility can be caused by something specific, like PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) which affects a woman’s ability to ovulate, for which there are specific treatments and options. But many, mostly older, women suffer from the vaguely labeled “unexplained fertility” (no cause can be pinpointed) or “secondary infertility” (meaning that they have had one or more children but cannot conceive again).
Doctors tag the conditions and try a range of treatments to see what works. Typically, doctors start with hormone therapy (things like Clomid, which causes superovulation) and move up the cycle until they reach IVF (Invitro Fertilization) in which the egg is fertilized in a test tube and then implanted in the womb. Several eggs can be implanted and so the rate of multiple births via IVF can be high.
And the cost of pursuing that elusive baby? Hormone therapy can run several thousand a month and IVF around $13,000 a try. Let’s say a couple goes through hormone therapy, then four courses of IVF and finally turn to a surrogate (who gets upward of $20,000 in addition to medical expenses), the price tag can rapidly approach $100,000.
Some celebrities, notably Hugh Jackman, Kirstie Alley and Jamie Lee Curtis, have abandoned expensive and frustrating treatment and turned to adoption. Some, like Julia Roberts, strenuously deny the rumours that they underwent fertility treatment. Older celebrities like Cheryl Tiegs and Sarah Jessica Parker have turned to surrogates.
Most celebrities are honest about the struggle and heartbreak of infertility, and the following are 10 celeb couples who stayed the course and had the family they longed for, one way or another.
10. Hugh Jackman and Deborra-Lee Furness: Adoption
The Aussie star of X-Men: Days of Future Past and his wife Deb went through several unsuccessful IVF attempts before adopting Oscar and Ava. He opened up about the heartbreak and grief that miscarriages bring, saying “There’s grieving you have to go through”. But when Oscar came into their lives, “all the heartache melted away.” The Wolverine star is a famously doting father.
9. Giuliana and Bill Rancic: Surrogate
Giuliana Rancic, the mainstay of E!, and her Apprentice winning husband Bill seemed to have it all. But they battled first with infertility, going through unsuccessful IVF attempts. Then Giuliani was diagnosed with breast cancer. They turned to a gestational surrogate (a surrogate that is implanted with the couple’s IVF embryo). Their son Duke was the result.
8. Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick: Surrogate
Parker and Broderick married in 1997 and had a son, James, born in 2002 when Parker was in her late thirties. Years later, in spite of IVF treatment, the hoped for second child had not happened and so they turned to a gestational surrogate. Famously outed by Star magazine, the woman was hounded and chased by paparazzi and threatened by people who did not approve of the surrogacy. The 2009 scandal surrounding SurroGenesis, the Californian company that arranged surrogates for desperate couples and then went bust – leaving surrogates and wannabe parents in the lurch – did not help. The owner of the company admitted fraud (some $2 million went missing). But, Parker and Broderick had a happy ending. In 2009, healthy twins Marion and Tabitha were born.
7. Rod Stewart and Penny Lancaster: IVF
No stranger to fatherhood (Stewart had 8 children with 5 women) and divorce, Stewart famously quipped in The Sunday Star Times that he would not marry again, but would rather find a woman he didn’t like and give her a house. And then he met Penny Lancaster. In 2005, their son Alastair was born. They married in 2007 after his nasty divorce from Rachel Hunter became final but, as Lancaster approached 40, the hoped for second child eluded them. Like all couples with fertility issues, they did everything they could, even consulting a homeopathic doctor who told Lancaster that her love of fish and seafood meant the mercury levels in her body were abnormally high. They eventually turned to IVF and after two failed attempts were successful, with Aiden being born in 2011. The ageing rocker readily admits to loving his big family (he is now also a grandfather), but says it all costs “a pretty penny”.
6.Elisabeth Hasselbeck: Treatment For Celiac Disease Led To Natural Births
Elisabeth made it to the finals of Survivor and went on to land a coveted spot on The View. In 2002, she married pro quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, but years of trying to get pregnant produced only frustration. Although she joked about how hard they were trying, this was a first for the can-do-anything Hasselbeck. Finally, she was tested and told that she had celiac disease and was allergic to gluten and, as a result, she was malnourished and would not be able to conceive. The answer for her was simple: Eliminating gluten from her diet resulted in the birth of Grace (2005), Taylor (2007) and Isaiah (2009). She has become an advocate for people with celiac disease, saying that fertility clinics are in too much of a hurry to use expensive IVF treatments and overlook conditions like celiac.
5. Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon: Hormone Therapy and Acupuncture
Shortly after marrying Nick Cannon, the curvaceous singer suffered a miscarriage. Devastated, she turned to fertility specialists who prescribed hormone therapy. She took Progesterone and had daily full body acupuncture, believing the needle treatment would improve her chances. The Progesterone increased her fertility and decreased the chances of miscarriage. Something did the trick because at last, at 42, she became pregnant – with twins! Her pregnancy was very difficult, but she stayed the course, continuing the hormone therapy until, at 35 weeks, the doctors were able to do a C-Section delivery of twins Monroe (as in Marilyn) and Moroccan. Afterwards, she lost some 70 pounds and (some say) had a tummy tuck.
4.Courtney Cox and David Arquette: IVF
Monica, Cox’s character in Friends, struggled with infertility. In a case of life imitating art, she and husband David Arquette faced the same struggle. Able to get pregnant easily, she suffered a series of miscarriages because her body’s overactive immune system caused the rejection of the fetus. Approaching 40, Cox underwent IVF and also suspectedly underwent drug therapy to suppress the immune system reaction. Their daughter CoCo was born in 2004. Jennifer Aniston, Cox’s BFF, is her godmother. Cox and Arquette divorced in 2013, but “remain friendly”.
3. Nicole Kidman: Adoption and Surrogate
Kidman is honest about her fertility problems. “I tried, and failed and failed and failed”. When she was with first hubby Tom Cruise, she suffered an ectopic pregnancy (where the embryo plants outside the womb). Misreported as a miscarriage, the unsuccessful pregnancy led the couple to adopt two children. Kidman has had endless fertility treatments without success. After she married country star Keith Urban, Kidman had one child (Sunday) born in 2008. She calls Sunday the miracle of her life because she had more or less given up hope. When a second pregnancy didn’t happen they turned to a gestational surrogate and daughter Faith was born in Nashville in 2010.
2.Helena Bonham-Carter: Hormone therapy and acupuncture
The woman who gave us the deliciously evil Bellatrix LeStrange in the Harry Potter movies is famously paired with quirky director Tim Burton (they have separate houses next door to one another in London). For years the couple tried to get pregnant, finally agreeing to hormone therapy (Clomid) but she reacted negatively. She then tried acupuncture. Nothing seemed to work. The couple was on the verge of trying IVF when suddenly out of the blue, Helena became pregnant. A very pleasant surprise. She has said she didn’t much like pregnancy, but liked the outcome. So much so that after son Billy-Ray was born in 2003 (Bonham Carter was in her late 30’s), she and Tim had a second child, Nell, born in 2007.
1. Emma Thompson: IVF and Adoption
Recently nominated for the Academy Award for her role as Mary Poppins author P.T. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks, Emma Thompson struggled with polycystic ovary syndrome for years. When she was married to Kenneth Branagh (who famously left her for Helena Bonham Carter), she tried in vain to get pregnant. Treatment followed treatment until, with partner Greg Wise, she finally succeeded at the age of 40. Her daughter Gaia was born in 2003 following IVF treatment in London. More unsuccessful IVF followed, until finally in 2003, at the age of 44, she sadly admitted that more children were not on her horizon. That was when she began charity work, principally in Africa, saying she wanted good to come out of her struggle. In 2009, she proudly watched as her adopted African son graduated from college.