Pregnancy over age 50 has become more possible for women, due to recent advances in assisted reproductive technology, such as egg donation. Typically, a woman's fecundity ends with menopause, which usually begins between ages 40 and 51 (men, in contrast, generally remain fertile throughout their lives, although the risk of genetic defects is greatly increased due to the paternal age effect). Pregnancy over age 35 is associated with increased risks.
In the United States, between 1997 and 1999, 539 births were reported among mothers over age 50. According to statistics from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, in Britain, more than 20 babies are born to women over age 50 per year through in-vitro fertilization. The oldest known birth mother in the world currently is Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara of Spain who gave delivered twins at the age of 66 in 2006. The oldest known biological mother currently is Dawn Brooke of Guernsey who gave birth to a boy in 1997 at the age of 59.
Additional recommended knowledge
Risks associated with childbearing over the age of 50 include an increased incidence of gestational diabetes, hypertension, delivery by caesarean section, miscarriage, preeclampsia, and placenta previa. In comparison to mothers between 20 and 29 years of age, mothers over 50 are at almost three times the risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and extremely premature birth; their risk of extremely low birth weight, small size for gestational age, and fetal mortality was almost double.
One early reference to an aged mother can be found in the Bible, where Sarah is described as having given birth to her husband Abraham's son, Isaac, at the age of 90. An unverified record is that of Margaret Krasiowa (1655-1763) of Konin, Poland, who is said to have married her third husband in her 94th year of life and borne two sons and a daughter by him during their 14 years of marriage.
Cases of pregnancy over 50
Birth mothers over 50
Age 50 to 54
- 1999: Aracelia Garcia of Sunnyside, Washington astounded doctors when she naturally conceived all-female triplets in 1999 at the age of 54.
- 2000: Elizabeth Edwards, wife of the former U.S. Senator and Vice Presential nominee John Edwards, gave birth to son Jack in 2000 at the age of 51. The couple decided to have children again after their 16-year-old son was killed in a car accident in 1996.
- 2001: American portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz was 52 when she gave birth to her daughter Sarah in October 2001.
- 2007: Rosinete Serrao gave birth to her own twin grandsons at a hospital in Recife, Brazil on September 28, 2007 at the age of 51, after choosing to act as a gestational surrogate for her 27-year-old daughter, Claudia, who had tried to become pregnant for four years. Under Brazilian law, a surrogate mother is required to be one's close relative, so Serrao volunteered because Claudia had no sisters. The children were conceived through artificial insemination using Claudia's eggs and her husband's sperm.
Age 55 to 59
- 1956: Ruth Kistler of Portland, Oregon gave birth to a daughter in Los Angeles, California on October 18, 1956, at the age of 57. The birth predated the advent of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) making Kistler one of the oldest women known to have conceived naturally.
- 1987: Kathleen Campbell of Kimberley, Nottinghamshire gave birth to a son in 1987 at the age of 55, having conceived naturally.
- 1997: Dawn Brooke of Guernsey gave birth to a son by caesarian section on August 20, 1997, at the age of 59. She became pregnant unexpectedly, initially mistaking the symptoms she experienced for cancer, and is the oldest mother currently known to have conceived naturally. It has been speculated that the hormone replacement therapy which Brooke had may have contributed to her ability to ovulate past menopause.
- 1998: Judith Cates of Evansville, Indiana gave birth to twin girls on December 12, 1998, at the age of 57. She got pregnant after IVF treatment, and she has said that she and her husband, Carl, are often mistaken for grandparents.
- 2004: Aleta St. James gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on November 9, 2004, at the age of 56, after having undergone IVF treatment. The birth occurred just three days before St. James's 57th birthday.
- 2006: Lauren Cohen of Paramus, New Jersey gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl, in New York on May 22, 2006, at the age of 59. Cohen and her husband, Frank Garcia, had previously had a daughter together through IVF in December 2004, using the husband's sperm and an egg from a donor. The couple, faced with either giving away the embryos left over from the first IVF treatment or letting them be destroyed, decided to try again. As to why she chose to have children at such a late age, with a husband approximately 20 years her junior, Cohen stated, "I just thought it would be unfair to Frank for him to marry me and never have the opportunity to have a child. He never asked me to have a child, but I knew it would make him happy".
Birth mothers over 60
Age 60 to 64
- 1994: Rosanna Della Corte of Canino, Italy gave birth to a son on July 18, 1994, at the age of 62. After their first son was killed when a car crashed into his motorcycle in 1991, Della Corte and her husband, Mauro, decided to attempt to have a second child. The couple tried to adopt, but were unable to, as under Italian law an adoptive parent could be no more than 40 years older than their potential child. Mauro read in the newspaper about an Italian doctor, Severino Antinori, who had helped a woman in her late 50s have a child. With Dr. Antinori's help, the Della Cortes conceived through IVF, using a donor egg and Mauro's sperm. Della Corte became pregnant on the first attempt, but miscarried after 40 days, and it took 6 more attempts before there was success.
- 1996: Arceli Keh of Highland, California gave birth to a daughter on November 7, 1996, at the age of 63. She and her husband, Isagani, had been married for 16 years when they decided to try to have a child. In order to gain admission to a fertility program that had an upper age limit of 55, Keh told doctors that she was 50, although she was in fact 10 years older at the time. Five IVF transfer cycles were required before Keh successfully became pregnant. The ovum came from a donor and was fertilized with sperm from Keh's husband.
- 1997: Liz Buttle of Wales gave birth to a son in November 1997, at the age of 64, after she had informed doctors that she was 49 in order to be eligible for fertility treatment.
- 1999: Harriet Stole of Southgate, North London, gave birth to a son in April 1999, aged 66, after agreeing to be a surrogate mother for her infertile daughter in-law, Lucy Handerson. Lucy and her husband, Harriet's son, Ross Stole, had an egg fertilized and later implanted into the womb of Harriet. The child was born prematurely at 8 months, weighing 4 pounds 5 oz, but survived and grew up to be a healthy boy named Henry Thomas Handerson Stole.
- 2004: Papathiammal Subramaniam gave birth to a son in Erode, Tamil Nadu, India on February 23, 2004, at the age of 64. The baby was delivered by caesarean section and weighed 1.75 kg (3.8 lb). He was conceived through IVF, with an egg donated by a 30-year-old relative of Subramaniam and the sperm of Subramaniam's husband, a 74-year-old farmer.
- 2006: Janise Wulf of Redding, California gave birth to a girl on February 19, 2006, at the age of 62. The baby was delivered by caesarean section, weighing 6 lb 10 oz (3.00 kg), and was conceived through in-vitro fertilization. Her doctor stated that, for women over 35, giving birth can have risks, but he agreed to oversee the procedure because Wulf was in good health. She and her second husband, Scott, said that they decided to have children together because Scott had not had any children in his previous marriage, and because they did not want their other son, also conceived through IVF, to grow up an only child. Of the 11 children Wulf had previously, the oldest was 40 at the time of the birth, and the youngest was 3. Wulf also has several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
- 2006: Patricia Rashbrook gave birth to a son in Brighton, United Kingdom on July 5, 2006, at the age of 62. She and her husband, John Farrant, received IVF treatment from the same fertility expert who the Della Cortes had consulted, Severino Antinori. The birth of the baby, which was born by caesarean section and weighed 6 lb 10.5 oz (3.02 kg), sparked debate over the ethics of late motherhood in the U.K.
- 2007: Frieda Birnbaum of Saddle River, New Jersey gave birth to twin sons on May 22, 2007, at the age of 60. The babies weighed 4 lb 11 oz (2.12 kg) each and were delivered by caesarean section. Birnbaum underwent IVF at a South African fertility clinic specializing in older women. She and her husband, who have a six-year-old son and two adult children, said that they wanted their younger son to have siblings close in age. Hospital officials believe Birnbaum may be the oldest woman to give birth to twins in the United States.
Age 65 to 66
- 2003: Satyabhama Mahapatra of Nayagarh, Orissa, India gave birth to a son on April 9, 2003, at the age of 65. The baby, weighing 6 lb 8 oz (2.95 kg), was born by caesarean section. Mahapatra became pregnant through the help of IVF, using an ovum donated by her 26-year-old niece and sperm from her husband, Krishnachandra, with whom this was their first child after 50 years of marriage. Doctors had attempted to persuade her and her husband out of undergoing IVF. Mahapatra was also hospitalized for the last trimester of her pregnancy.
- 2005: Adriana Iliescu gave birth to a daughter at a hospital in Bucharest, Romania on January 16, 2005, at the age of 66. After undergoing IVF using donated eggs, Iliescu initially became pregnant with triplets, but two of the fetuses died in utero. The surviving one was delivered by caesarean section.
- 2006: Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara (b. January 5, 1940) gave birth to twin sons at Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona, Spain on December 29, 2006, at the age of 66 — one week before her 67th birthday. The babies were delivered prematurely by caesarean section and weighed 3.5 lb (1.6 kg) each. Bousada became pregnant after receiving IVF treatment using donor eggs from a fertility clinic in Los Angeles, California, which claims that Bousada informed them that she was 55. Her family was unaware that she had gone to the United States to undergo fertility treatment prior to the births. Manuel Bousada de Lara, Bousada's older brother, criticized her decision, expressing concern over whether she would be able to raise children at her age. In response to such concerns, Bousada stated, "My mum lived to be 101 and there's no reason I couldn't do the same". She is currently the oldest known birth mother in the world and may also be the first known to have given birth to twins at over age 60.
- 2007: An unnamed Austrian woman gave birth to her third child in March 2007 at the age of 66. She had previously given birth to another child, a girl weighing 6 lb (2.72 kg), in the middle of December 2002 at the age of 61. Her oldest child, a daughter, is 30. Both pregnancies over 60 were made possible by IVF. The second was overseen by Severino Antinori. This could be the first and only known case in the world of two pregnancies and births at over age 60.
Pregnancies among older women have been a subject of controversy and debate. Some argue against motherhood late in life on the basis of the health risks involved, or out of concern that an older mother might not be able or around to care for a child as she ages, while others contend that having a child is a fundamental right and that it is commitment to a child's wellbeing, not the parents' ages, that matters.
A survey of attitudes towards pregnancy over age 50 among Australians found the 54.6% believed it was acceptable for a postmenopausal woman to have her own eggs transferred and that 37.9% believed it was acceptable for a postmenopausal women to receive donated ova or embryos.
Governments have sometimes taken actions to regulate or restrict later-in-life childbearing. In the 1990s, France approved a bill which prohibited postmenopausal pregnancy, which the French Minister of Health at the time, Philippe Douste-Blazy, said was "...immoral as well as dangerous to the health of mother and child". In Italy, the Association of Medical Practitioners and Dentists prevented its members from providing women aged 50 and over with fertility treatment, and the National Council of the Federation of Doctors would not allow anyone but married, heterosexual couples to undergo artificial insemination. Britain's then-Secretary of State for Health, Virginia Bottomley, stated, "Women do not have the right to have a child; the child has a right to a suitable home". However, in 2005, age restrictions on IVF in the United Kingdom were officially withdrawn.
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