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No medical objection to older mothers

18 November 2002
By BioNews
Appeared in BioNews 184

According to a study conducted at the University of Southern California (USC), post-menopausal women are equally as likely as younger women to conceive and give birth following egg donation.

Dr Richard Paulson and colleagues, whose research is published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, studied 77 post-menopausal women on an USC egg donation programme between 1991 and 2001. The womens' ages were between 50 and 63, but the study showed they had similar pregnancy and miscarriage rates to younger women.

Fifty-five of the egg donation procedures resulted in pregnancies, with 45 live births. All multiple births - six sets of twins and two triplets - were delivered by Caesarean section, as well as 68 per cent of singleton births. Twenty-five per cent of the women suffered mild pre-eclampsia and ten per cent had 'severe' pre-eclampsia. A fifth of the women developed gestational diabetes, the majority of cases being controlled with diet modification and not needing insulin injections.

Based on these results, Dr Paulson and his team concluded that the uterus of post-menopausal women 'is not only receptive to implantation with adequate steroid replacement, but also appears capable of supporting the gestation throughout the term of pregnancy'. Despite the fact that there appeared to be an increased risk of certain conditions, the researchers added that there would be no 'definitive medical reason for excluding women from attempting pregnancy on the basis of age alone'. Paulson commented 'not only do I not have a problem in allowing postmenopausal women to become pregnant, I would have an ethical problem in denying them'. In a press release responding to the study, Dr Sandra Carson of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine said that although the procedure was 'not unethical in all cases', it 'should be discouraged'.

ASRM statement on egg donation for post-menopausal women
American Society for Reproductive Medicine |  12 November 2002
Donor eggs can let women over 50 produce viable babies. Study says older women can safely conceive, but doctor's group discourages practice
USA Today |  13 November 2002
Postmenopausal women can safely have babies
New Scientist |  13 November 2002
Women in 50s 'can become mothers'
BBC News Online |  12 November 2002
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