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What's wrong with postmenopausal motherhood?

29 January 2001
By Juliet Tizzard
Director, Progress Educational Trust
Appeared in BioNews 92
I hadn't realised it, but apparently babies are the latest fashion accessory. The latest evidence of this is, we are told, the case of Lynne Bezant, who is pregnant with twins at the age of 56. As one might expect, Mrs Bezant's story provoked a rash of comments in the British media.

Becoming a mother in one's fifties is thought to be problematic for a number of reasons. The first is that it's not good for the resultant child. There are the trivial drawbacks such as having parents who are less energetic and more embarrassing. But there is also the serious issue of having parents who are likely to die before the child has a chance to provide them with grandchildren.

But, of course, youth is no guarantee of fitness and boundless energy. Lots of younger parents have neither the time, the energy nor the inclination to run around with their children. Lots of parents (actually, most of them) are a source of intense embarrassment to their children. And none of us can be assured that our parents will necessarily be around to see us into our thirties. Part of the problem here is that we seem to regard people who reach retirement age as being at death's door. But most will be only three quarters of the way through their lives.

One or two commentators voiced concern for the physical health of the mother and suggested that embarking upon pregnancy was rather foolhardy. It is no doubt the case that the older the mother, the more risky the pregnancy and birth. But when younger mothers put their own health at risk for the sake of their child's, we usually regard them as courageous, not foolish.

The final objection to postmenopausal mothers is more nebulous, but it boils down to the idea that it is just plain wrong, either because such women are 'straying over nature's line' or because they are selfish and obsessive.

But since when was having children a purely selfless act? Most of us are motivated by a combination of factors: some wonderfully high-minded, some selfish, or others largely inexplicable. Few of us are ready for parenthood, even when we plan it exhaustively, and most of us worry whether we're doing it right.

The one thing most parents enjoy, however, is the freedom to have and to bring one's children up in their own way, according to their own values and preferences. Unless society can ascertain that postmenopausal mothers are clearly going to have a damaging effect upon their children (which it cannot), there seems little justification for not just letting them get on with it.

20 April 2015 - by Jessica Ware 
A 65-year-old German woman is set to become the world's oldest mother of quadruplets...
20 April 2015 - by Dr Irenee Daly 
Postmenopausal mothers are often accused of having selfish reasons for having a child. Yet on closer examination, perhaps we need to question the rhetoric that postmenopausal motherhood is always unacceptable....
11 June 2007 - by Danielle Hamm 
Recent figures released by the UK fertility regulator, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), show a tenfold plus increase in women over 40 seeking fertility treatment using their own eggs. The number of women over 40 seeking fertility treatment using donated eggs is not know, but...
29 May 2007 - by Danielle Hamm 
A sixty year-old woman has become the oldest women in the US to give birth to twins. The two healthy boys were delivered in the US Hackensack University Medical Centre on 22 May. The twins were conceived via IVF in a South African clinic. The couple, Frieda...
7 January 2007 - by Dr Jess Buxton 
A 67-year old Spanish woman has become the world's oldest mother, after giving birth to twins at the end of last month. The woman and her sons are in good health, following a smooth delivery, a spokesman for the Sant Pau hospital in Barcelona said...
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