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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 23:34 GMT
Women in 50s 'can become mothers'
Pregnant woman, bbc
The oldest woman in the study was 63
Age alone should not stop women in their 50s from receiving fertility treatment, say doctors.

Even post-menopausal women were able to have babies using eggs donated by younger women, according to a US study.

Researchers followed the progress of 77 post-menopausal women undergoing IVF treatment using donated eggs at the University of Southern California.


We're having our own grandkids - we just skipped having kids

Marilyn Nolen, mother
The women - aged between 50 and 63 - had a similar pregnancy rate as younger mothers.

But they were more likely to suffer complications such as high blood pressure or need caesarean sections.

"We're having our own grandkids - we just skipped having kids," said Marilyn Nolen, 58, who participated in the assisted reproduction programme.

The Nolens tried for 10 years to have children, turning to egg donation after she reached the menopause. It worked on the first attempt. "For us it's just a dream come true," she said.

Higher risks

The researchers, led by Dr Richard Paulson, say there is no medical reason why women in their 50s should not have fertility treatment.

"Appropriately screened women aged 50 years or older can successfully conceive via oocyte donation and experience similar pregnancy rates, multiple gestation rates, and spontaneous abortion [natural termination] rates as younger recipients, " they write in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

They do identify some increased risks, however. Women over the age of 50 are more likely to suffer from a disease of pregnancy known as pre-eclampsia.

It causes high blood pressure and, in severe cases, can lead to the death of mother or child. Older mothers are also more likely to get diabetes during pregnancy.

"A majority can expect to deliver via caesarean," the authors warned.

"However, there does not appear to be any definitive medical reason for excluding these women from attempting pregnancy on the basis of age alone."

Ethical concerns

Outside of the US, IVF treatment in older women has caused controversy. Last year, a 56-year-old woman became the oldest mother of twins in the UK, after receiving fertility treatment.


We don't think it amoral or unethical to treat older women providing suitable counselling and precautions are undertaken

Professor Ian Craft, London Fertility Centre

Many IVF clinics set age limits on treatment or refer women over the age of 50 to review committees.

But Professor Ian Craft of the London Fertility Centre believes doctors should be compassionate about requests by older women for fertility treatment.

"We don't feel older women should be denied the prospect of becoming pregnant when it can happen naturally," he told BBC News Online.

"We don't think it amoral or unethical to treat older women providing suitable counselling and precautions have been undertaken."

See also:

31 Mar 99 | Medical notes
29 Aug 02 | Health
30 Aug 02 | Health
22 Oct 02 | Health
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