A 62-year old woman has become the UK's oldest woman to give birth to a child. Dr Patricia Rashbrook, who already has three children aged 18, 22 and 26, underwent IVF treatment using donor eggs in order to conceive her son, who was born by Caesarean section last week.
Dr Rashbrook, who travelled to Eastern Europe for the fertility treatment with her second husband, 60-year old John Farrant, paid £7000 for the IVF with a donated egg. The treatment was carried out by 'maverick' Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori, most famous for vowing to clone humans.
Describing her new-born son, Dr Rashbrook, a child psychiatrist, said 'he is adorable', adding that 'having been through so much to have him we are overjoyed. His birth was absolutely wonderful and deeply moving for both of us'. Her husband, 61 year old John Farrant, said that he was 'awestruck' upon seeing his son. 'I felt transformed, as if fatherhood had fulfilled a need in me that I hadn't acknowledged before I met Patti', he added.
The oldest woman to have given birth following fertility treatment is Adriana Iliescu, a Romanian woman, who gave birth aged 66 in 2005. Clinics in the UK are not likely to treat women in their sixties - even though it is not illegal to do so, most clinics have an upper age limit and few would treat women over the age of 45. One thing clinics in the UK have to take into account is the welfare of the prospective child - and many fertility doctors would not consider it to be in a child's best interests to be born to parents who are less likely to survive until it is an adult. Dr Rashbrook defends critics who say the couple have put their needs above those of the child: 'We would not have gone ahead if we felt we would not be good parents', she said, She added: 'I have always looked and felt very young, but nevertheless we have younger friends with children who have agreed to act as surrogate parents should anything happen to us'.
However, some fertility specialists have said they oppose the treatment of older women with IVF. Sam Abdalla, medical director of the infertility clinic at London's Lister hospital, said that although 'it is true we can easily get a 70 year old pregnant, or even someone older', he believes that 'it is much better to have the rules and framework that apply in Britain'. 'I hope this remains an individual case', he added. Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, has however defended Dr Rashbrook, accusing critics of 'gender hypocrisy'. She said that the choice to undergo IVF should be a choice for individual couples and their doctors. But others have called this attitude 'irresponsible'. Ann Widdecombe MP said that it was not the right analogy, as men could conceive children naturally into old age and women could not. Josephine Quintavalle, from the pro-life campaign group Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Core), asked where Hewitt would draw the line: 'at 70, at 80, 100?'
Last week, the oldest woman to give birth to IVF twins did so in New York, aged 59, also following treatment using donated eggs. Mrs Cohen and her husband Frank Garcia, from Paramus, New Jersey, already have a daughter, Raquel, who was conceived in the same way.