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Four-fold rise in births to women over 50 in England and Wales

18 June 2018
Appeared in BioNews 954

Hundreds of babies are being born every year to women aged over 50, according to official figures for England and Wales.

The number of women conceiving and giving birth over the age of 50 has more than quadrupled over the last 15 years, with the number rising ten-fold over the same time frame for women over 55.

The data obtained from the UK Office for National Statistics by the Mail on Sunday newspaper, shows the number of babies born to women over 50 increased from 55 in 2001 to 238 in 2016, and from 2 in 2001 and 20 in 2016 to women over 55.

According to figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), most of these mothers relied on assisted conception to become pregnant. Over 80 percent of these women sought fertility treatment abroad, very often using donor eggs, before returning to the UK to give birth to their baby. Such practices raise concerns about the additional burden on NHS resources when the women return to the UK, considering the associated complications with pregnancies in older women.

Fertility centres based in Greece, the Czech Republic and Spain are often popular destinations, but the HFEA warns against seeking fertility treatment abroad due to concerns regarding regulation of such clinics in foreign countries.

The HFEA website states: 'It is possible to have successful treatment abroad, but not all countries have laws governing treatment. Do as much research as possible to find the right clinic. We have no powers overseas so can’t help if something goes wrong.'

Some fertility experts are also concerned that foreign clinics are treating women without consideration of their ability, both physically and mentally, to carry a child and raise them.

Dr Gedis Grudzinskas, a Harley Street infertility consultant, told the Mail on Sunday that it is 'irresponsible commercial practice' to conduct treatment without the suitable checks in place, designed to promote the health of both the prospective mother and child.

In the UK, couples cannot receive NHS-funded IVF treatment if the woman is over 42 due to the low success rates and health concerns, but clinics can set their own regulations for privately-funded patients. For example, the London Women's Clinic will treat women up to the age of 53.

Dr Daghni Rajasingam, a consultant obstetrician and spokeswoman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, explained: 'Older women's pregnancies are more complicated, take up more resources and [health] outcomes are poorer.'

Fourfold rise in babies born to mothers over 50
The Times |  11 June 2018
More women over 50 are choosing to have babies later as rates soar
Mail on Sunday |  10 June 2018
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