A woman believed to be around 72 years old has given birth to a baby boy in India, following IVF treatment.
Daljinder Kaur and her husband Mohinder Singh Gill, who is 79, received IVF at the National Fertility Centre in Haryana state. The doctor treating the couple, Dr Anurag Bishnoi, explained how he was originally reluctant to treat Kaur because he thought she looked 'weak', but that he changed his mind after seeing her determination and checking her health and fitness levels.
Dr Bishnoi said that he did not consider a woman's age important when considering who should receive IVF, stating: 'I am only concerned with their pre- and post-pregnancy health. In this part of the world, couples without children don't feel part of the society. It has terrible consequences on a couple's place in their community.'
He said that women had a 'fundamental right' to become a mother: 'My point is, if you put a restriction [on receiving IVF] of 45 or 50 years, you will have to put a restriction on the males also. If they are talking about ethics, the [age] should be the same for both.'
There is no upper age limit for IVF treatment in India, although the Indian Council of Medical Ethics, which receives state funding, recommends an upper age limit of 50 years when implanting embryos into women. A bill to regulate assisted reproductive technologies has been pending for several years but has recently been narrowed down to deal with surrogacy, reports The Asian Age, with a revised bill currently being considered by ministers. Dr Bishnoi has called for IVF in India to be self-regulated.
Although Kaur's exact date of birth is not known, if reports of her age are accurate she will have become the world's oldest woman to give birth. In 2006, Maria del Carmen Bousada Lara from Spain gave birth following IVF at the age of 66. She died from cancer three years later (see BioNews 517).
Gynaecologist and obstetrician Dr Kamini Rao told The Guardian that she disagreed with the decision to provide IVF to Kaur and her husband. 'At Kaur's age, the body cannot cope with pregnancy. And even if it does, what will her quality of life be? Will she be able to wake up in the middle of the night to change diapers?'
Dr Rao's comments were echoed by the head of the Indian Society for Assisted Reproduction (ISAR), Dr Narendra Malhotra, who said: 'This child is going to be an orphan in a few years. Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should do it, just to make world records.'
The former president of the ISAR, Dr Hrishikesh Pai told the Australian that the decision to treat Kaur was 'outrageous' and was 'not in the best interests' of the parents or the child. He said the case may hasten the introduction of rules to prevent elderly couples from accessing IVF in India, explaining that current guidelines are not mandatory.
In England and Wales, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends an upper age limit of 42 years for women receiving NHS funded IVF treatment, with Scotland adopting similar guidelines. Women who are older than this can pay for private treatment, although The Guardian explains that in practice most clinics will only treat women less than 45 years old because of the increased health risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth in older women.