Pregnancy over age 50

Pregnancy over age 50 has become more possible for women, due to recent advances in assisted reproductive technology, such as egg donation. Typically, a woman's fecundity ends with menopause, which usually begins between ages 40 and 51 (men, in contrast, generally remain fertile throughout their lives, although the risk of genetic defects is greatly increased due to the paternal age effect). Pregnancy over age 35 is associated with increased risks.

In the United States, between 1997 and 1999, 539 births were reported among mothers over age 50. According to statistics from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, in Britain, more than 20 babies are born to women over age 50 per year through in-vitro fertilization. The oldest known birth mother in the world currently is Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara of Spain who delivered twins at the age of 66 in 2006. The oldest known biological mother currently is Dawn Brooke of Guernsey who gave birth to a boy in 1997 at the age of 59.

Medical considerations

Risks associated with childbearing over the age of 50 include an increased incidence of gestational diabetes, hypertension, delivery by caesarean section, miscarriage, preeclampsia, and placenta previa. In comparison to mothers between 20 and 29 years of age, mothers over 50 are at almost three times the risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and extremely premature birth; their risk of extremely low birth weight, small size for gestational age, and fetal mortality was almost double.

Historical references

One early reference to an aged mother can be found in the Bible, where Sarah is described as having given birth to her husband Abraham's son, Isaac, at the age of 90. An unverified record is that of Margaret Krasiowa (1655-1763) of Konin, Poland, who is said to have married her third husband in her 94th year of life and borne two sons and a daughter by him during their 14 years of marriage.

Cases of pregnancy over 50

Birth mothers over 50

Age 50 to 54

Age 55 to 59

Birth mothers over 60

Age 60 to 64

Age 65 to 66

Debate

Pregnancies among older women have been a subject of controversy and debate. Some argue against motherhood late in life on the basis of the health risks involved, or out of concern that an older mother might not be able or around to care for a child as she ages, while others contend that having a child is a fundamental right and that it is commitment to a child's wellbeing, not the parents' ages, that matters.

A survey of attitudes towards pregnancy over age 50 among Australians found the 54.6% believed it was acceptable for a postmenopausal woman to have her own eggs transferred and that 37.9% believed it was acceptable for a postmenopausal women to receive donated ova or embryos.

Governments have sometimes taken actions to regulate or restrict later-in-life childbearing. In the 1990s, France approved a bill which prohibited postmenopausal pregnancy, which the French Minister of Health at the time, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said was "...immoral as well as dangerous to the health of mother and child". In Italy, the Association of Medical Practitioners and Dentists prevented its members from providing women aged 50 and over with fertility treatment, and the National Council of the Federation of Doctors would not allow anyone but married, heterosexual couples to undergo artificial insemination. Britain's then-Secretary of State for Health, Virginia Bottomley, stated, "Women do not have the right to have a child; the child has a right to a suitable home". However, in 2005, age restrictions on IVF in the United Kingdom were officially withdrawn.

See also

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