The news that Janet Jackson is expecting her first child at the age of 50 has fans excited for the superstar mom-to-be. However, doctors have a warning for those who see Jackson's pregnancy as evidence that they can wait to have a baby. As they explain, a successful pregnancy at age 50 is not the norm.
As CBS Los Angeles reports, technology has made it possible for women to have children later in life. While it's unknown whether Jackson's pregnancy is the result of such procedures, doctors caution that getting pregnant at 50 — natural or not — is exceedingly rare.
Dr. Yvonne Bohn, an Ob-Gyn, estimates that a woman of Jackson's age has a one percent chance of conceiving spontaneously. Those odds improve with the use of a donor egg. Dr. Bohn tells CBS:
“I think it’s pretty special that Janet Jackson is pregnant. ... In a 50-year-old woman, her success rate with a donor egg is 50 percent, which is the same as a 35-year-old. So because it’s not her uterus that’s the problem, it’s her eggs.”
According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fertility begins to decrease after age 32 and does so even more rapidly after age 37. The decline is partially due to the fact that older eggs are not as easily fertilized.
Moreover, pregnancies in which the mom is older than 35 are considered riskier for the health of both the mother and the baby. According to the Mayo Clinic, moms-to-be over age 35 are at a higher risk of:
- Multiples (the chance of twins increases with maternal age)
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Low birth weight
- Premature birth
- Chromosome abnormalities
- Miscarriage and stillbirth
- Complications (such as placenta previa) that would require a C-section delivery
Dr. Bohn says that the use of a donor egg can mitigate some — but not all — of the health concerns related to a pregnancy later in life, and new advances can test embryos before they are implanted, lessening the risk of having a child with a genetic condition.
Still, Dr. Bohn says that because fertility varies for each individual, it's better not to wait and hope to follow Jackson's example. She tells CBS that there's one thing a woman can do to give herself a better chance for a healthy baby and pregnancy later on: freeze her eggs, “the earlier, the better.”