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60 year-old woman gives birth to twins in Canada after fertility treatment abroad

16 February 2009
Appeared in BioNews 495

A 60 year-old woman has sparked controversy in Canada by travelling to India to receive fertility treatment after years of failed attempts to conceive naturally. Ranjit Hayer, originally from India, has become the oldest woman in Canada to give birth after receiving IVF at Dr Anoop Gupta's Delhi fertility clinic; her twin boys were delivered seven weeks prematurely by Caesarean section at the Foothills hospital in Calgary last week.

Canadians are not usually eligible for fertility treatment above the age of 50, so Hayer travelled to what has been dubbed by one Canadian newspaper the 'salvation destination' amongst the global community of infertile; India, where 'unregulated reproductive technology makes anything possible'. Hayer is not the oldest woman to have given birth; a growing number of post-menopausal women have turned to fertility treatment in India where regulations have been minimal. In November 2008, a woman in the northern Indian state of Haryana gave birth to her first child at the alleged age of 70 years old. In 2006, Carmela Bousada of Spain was hailed as the oldest new mother after giving birth to twin boys at 66 years of age.

The case in Canada has not only raised ethical questions about older mothers and their ability to parent, but also about who pays for the treatment of patients who undergo medical procedures abroad. 'I very much object to the resources this woman has used in the health system. We have spent a lot of money on her' said Dr Cal Greene, medical director of a Calgary-based fertility clinic. Physicians in the state expressed concern that the cost of care for Hayer's twins could reach $6,000 a day, as resources are limited. Dr Greene would 'rather see those resources used in the normal age group'. However, Juliet Guichon, a bioethicist at the University of Calgary said it would be unethical for the medical system to turn away any patient in need.

Dr Gupta's clinic is one of an estimated 150 clinics in India offering an extensive range fertility treatments to patients such as Mrs Hayer who are either unable to access treatment in their home country, or cannot afford to. The lack of regulation has caused concern even within India: 'Total madness is prevailing', said Imrana Qadeer, a professor of public health at Jawaharlal Nehru University, a campaigner for regulated assisted reproduction. 'It is a totally unregulated thing... the doctors get away with a lot of things because people trust them and also there is a lot of ignorance about technologies... Women are vulnerable, they can be pressured'. Surrogacy in India is a big attraction for foreign patients, where the total cost is about $10,000 compared to $50-70,000 in the US. Yet surrogates tend to be poor, uneducated women often unable to read the contracts they sign. Egg donation is also widely desired by foreign patients, and according to Dr Gupta, has been on the increase since the economic downturn.

Canadian women, 60, gives birth to twins: report
Reuters |  5 February 2009
Desperate mothers fuel India's 'baby factories'
Globe and Mail |  13 February 2009
Health officials split over cost of treating 60-year-old mom
Calgary Herald |  7 February 2009
7 October 2013 - by Dr Lucy Freem 
A new treatment to stimulate egg production from post-menopausal ovaries has resulted in the successful birth of a child after testing in a small clinical trial...
21 February 2011 - by Leo Perfect 
A 61-year-old woman gave birth to her grandson in February because her daughter couldn't maintain a pregnancy. Kristine Casey, who may be the oldest woman to give birth to her grandson, volunteered to act as a surrogate after her daughter, Sara Connell, failed to bring two IVF pregnancies to term...
18 January 2010 - by Dr Vivienne Raper 
A 59-year-old British woman who conceived her two-year-old daughter by in IVF (vitro fertilisation) has faced criticism after saying she wants more children. Sue Tollefsen, from Essex, had told makers of a BBC documentary about older mothers to be shown later this month that she was '110 per cent' sure she wanted more treatment....
19 October 2009 - by Antony Starza-Allen 
Maria Bousada, 69, once the world's oldest mother, died in July this year leaving behind two young children born following IVF only two years earlier. Her death reignited the debate surrounding 'older mothers' - or more specifically, post-menopausal women who require fertility treatment to conceive. In response to media attention surrounding Ms Bousada's death, Professor Sammy Lee, an expert in medical ethics, embryology and biomedical sciences based at University College London...
17 August 2009 - by Dr Sammy Lee 
Did the death of Maria Bousada change public attitudes to the modern phenomenon headlined as 'Oldest Mums'? The world's media certainly made hay and the news reverberated for a few days; and it seems likely that the Channel 4 documentary 'the Worlds Oldest Mums' was rescheduled to screen early to catch the media wave which the death generated. The aftermath, though, of this tsunami seems to have largely been relative indifference....
14 December 2008 - by Sarah Pritchard 
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...
16 September 2008 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A 59-year old woman has given birth to triplets in a Paris hospital after receiving fertility treatment abroad. The woman, believed to be of Asian origin, travelled to Vietnam to be treated by a private clinic willing to overlook her age; the usual upper age limit...
7 July 2008 - by MacKenna Roberts 
A 70-year-old woman in India is reportedly the world's oldest woman to give birth, when she had twins last week. The girl and boy babies were delivered one month early by emergency caesarean section but are reportedly alive and well after being transferred to specialist neonatal...
31 March 2008 - by Katy Sinclair 
A 57-year-old woman has become one of the oldest first time mothers in the UK, after initially being told that her pregnancy could be ovarian cancer. Eight weeks prior to giving birth, Susan Tollefsen was sent for emergency hospital tests on a growing swelling, suspected to...
8 October 2007 - by Dr Karen Devine 
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...
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