May 8, 2016
Why Janet Jackson And Other Mothers Risk Having Babies After 40

Janet Jackson, the rocker with the perpetual grin, shocked the world when she announced her first pregnancy at 49-years-old.

Jackson, famously postponing her "Unbreakable" world tour due to the pregnancy, made a public announcement in a video on Twitter.

"I thought it was important that you be the first to know. My husband and I are planning our family, so I'm going to have to delay the tour. Please, if you can try and understand that it's important that I do this now. I have to rest up, doctor's orders. But I have not forgotten about you. I will continue the tour as soon as I possibly can."

Jackson is not alone in her new life experience.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Vital Statistics Report, a total of 677 U.S. women over the age of 50 gave birth in 2013.

Statistics have been climbing since 2012, when 600 women over 50 gave birth. The numbers have shown a dramatic increase since 1997, when there were 144.

Since then, the number of women over 50 giving birth has risen annually.

In bearing a child at age 50, Jackson has three main factors to ponder, according to Stat News, in "The Science Behind Janet Jackson's Pregnancy At 49."

  1. Pregnancies over 50 are rare, but they do happen.
  2. It's probably a donated egg.
  3. It's the age of the egg rather than the age of the womb.
Dr. David Keefe, an obstetrician-gynecologist and fertility researcher at New York University, said that women who get pregnant at Jackson's age "make history."

"It's exceptionally rare for patients to get pregnant naturally at 50 or over 45."

If a woman that age has not reached menopause, her eggs may well have genetic glitches. The cause for aged eggs to have these anomalies is not completely understood, but once the DNA goes haywire, there is no way to repair it. The results can affect the chromosomes of the child, said Dr. Kutluk Oktay, a fertility doctor and researcher at the New York Medical College.

"The resulting embryo may end up with too many or too few chromosomes. The majority of those end up in miscarriages."

This is why older women run a greater risk of producing a baby with Down syndrome, which is caused by a genetic mutation involving an extra chromosome.

Therefore, many women over 40 who want to be mothers have better success when using an egg from a donor.

But there are women who have pushed on and successfully raised children despite being much older than most mothers.

The Guardian cites a couple of examples of women who became pregnant after age 50.

Why do women wait so long to become mothers? Common reasons are:

  • The wrong partner, be it a man or woman. Many women feel that having a solid partnership is paramount to a child's well-being.
  • Work: With demanding careers, women often feel as if they can't devote time to raising a baby.
  • Finances: Babies are expensive, and ideally, stability should be achieved before adding to the family. Unfortunately, in today's economy, that can take a long time.
Carole Hobson, a former barrister and social worker, became the UK's oldest single first-time mother at age 58. She invested thousands in trips to India to be fertilized with no less than six eggs. Hobson produced twins.

"I think I'm coping with motherhood better as I'm more motivated than when I was younger."

Tina Malone, who plays Mimi Maguire in the TV series Shameless, became pregnant at age 50 using a donated egg. She delivered a daughter she named Flame through Cesarean section, because she developed complications.

CNN reported that Elizabeth Gregory, the author of Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood and director of the Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Houston, adopted a child at age 48. She said "women who become pregnant later in life are optimistic sorts who have maintained their bodies and minds."

"These people are compelled; they have a strong energy about them. Having a child keeps you fit."

No worries about fitness for Jackson, who joins other notables who have become mothers late in life. The list includes Halle Berry, who gave birth for the second time at 47. Kelly Preston had her third child in 2012 at age 48. Susan Sarandon had a baby at 46, and Beverly D'Angelo had twins (with 65-year-old Al Pacino) at 49. Country singer Joey Feek had a baby last year at age 40 before succumbing to ovarian cancer. Joey's baby, Indy, was born with Down syndrome.

Janet Jackson has not announced her due date or how she and her husband plan to have the child.

[Image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock]