It would appear that the quest for motherhood is for some, a desire that fails to subside with age. Empowered by new technologies such as IVF treatments, women are increasingly seeking the assistance of fertility clinics to fulfil their aim of bearing a child when their biological clock has ground to a halt. For single women in Japan, however, this type of assistance is not so easy to come by. Strict laws in the field of surrogacy and artificial insemination are imposed due to the country's traditional approach to human reproduction. As a result, fertility treatment is provided almost exclusively to married couples.
Undeterred, a single 60-year old Japanese woman has taken such restrictions into her own hands. The Times newspaper has reported this week that the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, is now in her fifteenth week of pregnancy after travelling to the United States for fertility treatment. She is believed to be the first and oldest single woman to conceive from a donated egg. The use of donated eggs is strictly limited to married couples under a Japanese medical guideline.
After a series of unsuccessful attempts to find a doctor in Japan willing to handle the pregnancy, Yahiro Netsu, a gynaecologist at The Suwa Maternity Clinic in Nagano, central Japan, has stepped in to help. Speaking to the Associated Press, Mr Netsu confessed that the decision had been a tough one, especially as her age and single status meant that the pregnancy was a high risk and an uncertain future for the child. The gynaecologist, however, was won over by the woman's desire to bear a child in spite of her age. He said: 'But she wanted a child, and I decided to do all I can to help her through expected difficulties'.
Although the pregnancy has yet to reach a happy conclusion, Mr Netsu and his patient should take heart from the birth of a healthy baby boy born last summer to a British woman, aged 62. Dr Patricia Rashbrook, a psychiatrist from Lewes, East Sussex, conceived using a donor egg after her fifth attempt at IVF. Her son, nicknamed JJ, weighed a healthy 6 pounds and 10 ounces. But with the trend for older mothers continuing, it would appear that even Dr Rashbrook has been usurped in the trophy for 'The world's oldest mum'. This accolade is believed to go to a 67-year old Spanish woman who gave birth to twin boys following IVF treatment last year. She is closely followed by Adriana Iliescu, from Romania, who had a daughter called Eliza Maria in January in 2005 at the age of 66.