Celebrities are breaking their silence on infertility — which affects between 10% to 15% of couples.
Infertility is defined as when couples are unable to conceive after having unprotected sex for at least a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC recommends that women over the age of 35 should be screened for infertility after six months, as egg quality and quantity decrease with time, significantly between the ages of 30 and 39.
People struggling with infertility need support for a grief that isn’t always recognized. “Although infertility doesn’t have the same stigma it did decades ago, many people still hold a lot of shame,” Jennifer Meyers, a certified nurse-midwife and Mayo Clinic spokesperson, tells TODAY Parents. “There is societal pressure to have children, and it can be overwhelming to hear, ‘When are you going to get pregnant?’”
Many celebrities have been open about articulating their reproductive challenges, which Meyers says “can help the average person realize they aren’t alone.” During National Infertility Awareness Week between April 24 and April 30 this year, here are some of the celebrities who have spoken up about struggling to conceive.
Jordana Brewster’s sons Julian, 8, and Rowan, 5, were born through gestational surrogacy, which complicated the actress’ desire to take maternity leave the first time around. “I was like, ‘I’m not able to carry my baby so why should I get that? I should go straight to work,’’ Brewster, who initially tried conceiving with IVF, told TODAY Parents in 2021. “I was punishing myself for something I couldn’t help.” Over time, the "Fast & Furious star" arrived at a healing place. “I let go of the baggage. I let go of the noise in my head,” she told TODAY. “I’ve done so much work to create this beautiful life and I’m going to enjoy it.”
TODAY's own Dylan Dreyer welcomed her third son Russell in 2021, little brother to Calvin, 5, and Oliver, 2, after experiencing secondary infertility (which happens when a person can’t get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term after previously conceiving without problems) and a miscarriage.
While Dryer and her husband Brian Fichera had initially grieved in private, in 2019, she opened up in an article for TODAY Parents. “Why do women (and their partners) have to go through all these ups and downs in the dark?” wrote Dreyer. “Smiling on TV when I want to burst out in tears, playing it cool on TV when I want to jump up and down in excitement... I have been dealing with so many intense emotions and it’s time to just put them all out there.”
By being honest, said Dryer, “maybe it will give just one other woman the motivation to keep plugging along.”
Sarah Jessica Parker
“Sex and The City” star Sarah Jessica Parker gave birth to her first child James Wilkie in 2002, but when planning their second, the actress and her husband Matthew Broderick “tried and tried and tried and tried and tried to get pregnant, but it just was not to be, the conventional way,” she told Vogue in 2010.
The couple used surrogacy for twin girls Marion and Tabitha in 2009. Leading up to the birth, Parker reflected on the disappointment of trying to conceive. “Yeah, I mean I couldn’t pretend otherwise,” she told “Access Hollywood” that year. “It would be a complicated — it would be odd to have made this choice if I was able to, you know, have successful pregnancies since my son’s birth.”
Whitney Port and husband Tim Rosenman share a son named Sonny, who was born in 2017, however, the “Hills” alum has since experienced two miscarriages. “The amount of various emotions I felt in the past couple weeks have been extreme ... from shock to sadness to relief, which then led to guilt for feeling that relief,” Port wrote on Instagram of the first.
In 2021, when Port had a second miscarriage, she hesitated to post about it. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to relive the pain,” she explained in another post, adding, “I also have so much sadness in my heart for anyone that has to go through this or has gone through this.”
In her 2018 memoir “Becoming,” former First Lady Michelle Obama said that she and former President Barack Obama used IVF to conceive daughters Sasha, 20, and Malia, 23. “We were trying to get pregnant and it wasn’t going well,” she wrote, according to The Associated Press. “We had one pregnancy test come back positive, which caused us both to forget every worry and swoon with joy, but a couple of weeks later I had a miscarriage, which left me physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we felt.”
Tyra Banks and her partner Erik Asla utilized gestational surrogacy for their son York in 2016. “I think I’m lucky, you know, I did it for about a year and a half of IVF and some women do it for years and years and years,” the former “ANTM” judge told Entertainment Tonight two years later. “Unfortunately, I don’t have embryos frozen because I want three kids. I think that was the end. I think I probably could’ve kept going, but I just think it wasn’t healthy for my body because less eggs and less eggs and less eggs, you know, every month. But I’m so happy.”
Kim Kardashian used fertility treatments to conceive four of her children after experiencing preeclampsia, which causes organ damage, while carrying her first child North, now eight, she explained in a 2019 Instagram post. During North's delivery, which was almost six weeks early, Kardashian also experienced placenta accreta, a potentially dangerous condition when the placenta remains inside the uterus.
At the time, Kardashian and her now-estranged husband Kanye West (she filed for divorce in January 2021), wanted more children so she froze her eggs and became pregnant with their son Saint, who was born in 2015. However, the reality star’s second delivery was also complicated and she had surgery to repair her organs. To carry her subsequent children Chicago and Psalm, born in 2018 and 2019, respectively, the SKIMS co-founder used two different surrogates. “I am just so thankful for my beautiful kids,” Kardashian said. “No matter how they came to me, they came to me. I’m so thankful for surrogates.”
“Girls” star Lena Dunham wrote in a 2018 essay for Vogue that her endometriosis diagnosis led to a hysterectomy, which is the removal of the uterus. “I just sense that the uterus I have been given is defective,” she wrote, adding that her own grief has not stopped her from celebrating her friends’ pregnancies. “Sonograms and Instagram feeds don’t break my heart like they did when I still had a uterus that didn’t work,” she wrote. “The children who could have been mine do break my heart, and I walk with them, with the lost possibility, a somber and wobbly walk as I regain my center.”
Dunham, who is married to musician Luis Felber, says she is hopeful about her reproductive choices, which include adoption. “But I wanted that stomach,” she wrote of pregnancy. “I wanted to know what nine months of complete togetherness could feel like. I was meant for the job, but I didn’t pass the interview. And that’s OK. It really is. I might not believe it now, but I will soon enough.”
Before her daughter Kaavia was born via a surrogate in 2018, actress Gabrielle Union and husband Dwyane Wade, a former NBA player, went through “eight or nine miscarriages” she wrote in her book “We’re Going To Need More Wine,” according to an excerpt published by People. “For three years, my body has been a prisoner of trying to get pregnant — I’ve either been about to go into an IVF cycle, in the middle of an IVF cycle, or coming out of an IVF cycle.”
And curious questions from others can offend. ”For so many women, and not just women in the spotlight, people feel very entitled to know, ‘Do you want kids?’” Union told the outlet. “A lot of people, especially people that have fertility issues, just say ‘no’ because that’s a lot easier than being honest about whatever is actually going on. People mean so well, but they have no idea the harm or frustration it can cause.”