08 August 2016
ByAppeared in BioNews 863
A 62-year-old Tasmanian woman has become Australia's oldest mother to conceive using IVF.
The unnamed woman gave birth via Caesarean section at 34 weeks of pregnancy in Melbourne, Australia. The mother was supported by her 78-year-old husband throughout the procedure.
The woman is believed to have previously undergone several failed IVF procedures and to have been implanted with a donor embryo overseas.
The news of the birth has sparked controversy. Dr Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association commented that the couple's decision to have a child at their advanced age was 'selfish' and 'madness', asking if anyone had thought ahead to the child's future and its teenage years of life. He also questioned the rights of others who would be affected by the birth, including the child, society and taxpayers.
Risks associated with pregnancy increase significantly over the age of 40. These include high blood pressure, birth complications and compromised fetal development. IVF clinics in Australia do not usually treat women beyond the average natural age of menopause, which is 51.
However, there is no legal cut-off for IVF treatment, and women may also seek treatment overseas. The past decade has seen a near threefold increase in number of Australian women over 40 undergoing fertility treatment.
Dr Andrew Pesce, former AMA president and obstetrician in Sydney, stated that there is no real data on the risks of women having babies in their 60s because 'very, very few women that age that have ever been pregnant'. He recommended an official age limit for IVF.
'It helps in your counselling of people who are very desperate, who are very vulnerable, who may insist on saying, 'I know you're telling me I have no realistic chance of getting pregnant ... but I still want to do it,"' Dr Pesce said to ABC News.
Professor Micheal Chapman, president of the Fertility Society of Australia, has spoken out in the woman's defence. 'I think we're all selfish in having babies and one of the main motives of having them is self-fulfillment and selfishness, so I don't criticise her at all for that,' he told The Guardian. However, Professor Chapman added that he would never advise pregnancy for someone of her age and said that he would have been 'terrified' about the health risks to her and her child.