These days, as soon as it gets known that an actor in her late thirties is pregnant, the rumour mills have a field day, speculating about the possibility of the pregnancy being a result of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), a process by which egg cells are fertilised by sperm outside a woman’s body.
It’s well known that IVF is an option not only for infertile couples but also those who choose to delay having a baby. So the mere fact that the actor is pushing 40 is enough to set tongues wagging. But gossip aside, IVF is today considered a boon by many career women, including actors, say doctors and Bollywood insiders.
"With pregnancy, your acting career comes to an abrupt halt. IVF allows women to delay their pregnancy by a few years," says Nandita Palshetkar, IVF expert at Lilavati Hospital, adding that she does have celebrity patients, some approaching their 40s, coming to her for IVF.
There’s another reason for a celeb couple to turn to IVF: It is a quick process. “Couples who don’t want to spend too long trying to have a baby through other methods, like intra-uterine insemination (IUI or artificial insemination), opt for IVF because the success rate is higher,” says Palshetkar. Women in high-powered careers like banking, law and aviation, too, are now opting for IVF.
Going by the grapevine, a major star of the '90s went for the procedure last year to have her second child at the age of 36.
Another star in her late 30s, married to a business tycoon, is said to be making regular trips to a fertility clinic for the same reason.
Apart from wanting to prolong their careers, actors may also turn to IVF because their stressful party-filled lifestyle can lead to problems otherwise, says Reshma Pai, gynaecologist at Jaslok Hospital. “Excessive smoking and drinking as a means to combat stress can result in complications in an actress’s pregnancy. Moreover, actors and husbands of female actors may indulge in drug abuse, leading to a low sperm count,” says Pai.
Even though the taboo over IVF is lifting slowly, most people still don’t like to talk about it because of perceptions that the man is not virile or the woman is infertile. There is even a ridiculous notion that a baby conceived in a test tube — or petri dish — is not genetically yours.
Director Farah Khan had no qualms over speaking to the press about the procedure she underwent. “I wanted to have children at a particular time and I had to choose IVF for it,” she says.
Actor Minissha Lamba is forthright that IVF is a boon for women who don’t want to give up their careers. “It would be terrible to slog it out for years, and hiting this speed-breaker because you are at the most fertile phase. IVF makes it possible for women to plan their careers better, and go that extra mile as a working woman.”
Emma Thompson, Courtney Cox and Celine Dion are among Hollywood actors who have been open about adopting IVF around the age of 40. Rumours suggest that superstars Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lopez too went for it.