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Meet the World’s Oldest Mothers of Newborns

Why some elderly women pursue pregnancy.

This post is in response to
The Changing Face of Family

Rajo Devi and her daughter

In their fascinating book, The Longevity Project: Surprising Discoveries for Health and Long Life from the Landmark Eight-Decade Study, Howard Friedman, Ph.D. and Leslie Martin, Ph.D., write: "Almost everywhere in the world, women outlive men."

But, that probably isn't a sound reason to carry and deliver a baby as a much older person. When we talk or read about women starting their families "later" or having more children, it generally means at age 35 or 40 or so. No more. Seventy-year-old women can and have had babies. The IVF technology is available and being used.

Two 70-year-old women in India gave birth in 2008 both using IVF technology to become pregnant. The first, a mother with two daughters, gave birth to twins. The second, Rajo Devi also 70, had tried for 50 years before becoming pregnant. In March of this year, a Netherlands news outlet offered this update and comment on mother and her three-year-old child (shown here) noting that having a baby at 50 in India is not uncommon. Fifty, however, is not 70!. According to the news report:

"More than just a personal wish to have children, it's the social stigma of childlessness that drives them to do it."

"Rajo Devi's delivery was not without complications. Her uterus was removed, until last year she was bleeding from her Caesarean scar, and she still takes painkillers daily. The national media wrote that her doctor, Anurag Bishnoi of the IVF clinic in Hisar, a small town in Haryana, had not specifically warned her about the risks of a pregnancy at her age. But Doctor Bishnoi dismisses the criticism."

In the U.S. there have been several reports of grandmothers carrying and delivering babies for their daughters. These birthmothers/grandmothers are younger and hand the infant into their adult child's care. Have you chased a toddler lately? Or, tried to stay awake waiting for your newly licensed teenaged driver to return home safely with the car? Childcare takes energy-more than most 70-year-olds have.

Even though we are living longer, having a child at age 70 pushes the envelope too far no matter how old we will live to be in the future. It is one thing to have a baby in your 40s and quite another to have one in your 60s and 70s.

Genetic Crossroads, a Psychology Today blog, reported on India's efforts to regulate Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART). Although the bill provides many restrictions on ART access, it contains no mention of maternal age restrictions. Should doctors be helping much older women become pregnant? Rajo Devi will die without the shame of being childless which seems to have been her and her husband's intent, but how will her daughter fare and feel?

Copyright 2011 by Susan Newman

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