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70 year-old Indian woman gives birth for the first time

14 December 2008
Appeared in BioNews 488

An Indian woman has given birth to a baby girl by Caesarean section at the age of 70, after receiving fertility treatment in her home state of Haryana in India. Rajo Devi and her husband Bala Ram remained childless during 55 years of marriage before they heard of a 58 year old woman who had given birth to twins after IVF treatment and decided to try it themselves.

'We've been longing for a child since we married many years ago, but it didn't work for us', said Devi, 'but those sad days are over'.

So desperate was their attempt to conceive that Ram married Devi's younger sister in the hope that she would produce an heir, but she did not. Such marriages are illegal in India, but are not uncommon due to the stigma associated with childlessness.

Dr Anurag Bishnoi , the doctor who treated Devi at a private fertility facility in the town of Hisar, 80 miles north of New Delhi, told The Times of India, 'There are 200 IVF centres in the country and general awareness is growing among couples. IVF has revolutionised the way we look at infertility. Infertility is no longer a social taboo or a divine curse. It can be treated scientifically'. Dr Bishnoi said that mother and baby girl, who weighed just over three pounds, were in good health. Mrs Devi was warned by doctors prior to treatment that pregnancy would be a high risk for both her and any developing child, but testing suggested that Devi was healthy enough to stand up to the physical strains. Aside from her parents' old age, Dr Bishnoi did not foresee any future problems for the child or her mother.

Yet however happy Devi and Ram are with the arrival of their daughter, commentators have remarked that the situation will raise fresh concerns about the 'shifting boundaries of fertility'. Lisa Belkin writing for The New York Times accepts that the 'newborn can be called a triumph of science over infertility' but asks 'where does the yearning to be a parent become a selfish disregard for the life of the child being created?' In particular she worries about the impact of the parents possible deaths before their daughter has reached adulthood. In reply to this particular concern, a relative of Devi and Ram said, 'they should not worry about bringing up their daughter; we have a joint family and there are countless people to take care of her'.

Rajo Devi takes over Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara as the world's oldest mother. Bousada de Lara gave birth to twin boys in Barcelona in 2006 after lying to doctors about her age in order to receive fertility treatment. Her family accused her of being selfish and irresponsible, and less than a year later, she was diagnosed with cancer. The oldest mother in the UK is Patricia Rashbrook who gave birth to a son in 2006 at the age of 62. Rashbrook was treated by Severino Antinori, the Italian embryologist who sparked controversy in 1994 after helping a 63 year old woman to conceive.

70-Year-Old Woman Gives Birth
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