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Last Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
More babies born to women over 50
More women are having babies later, naturally and through IVF
The number of women over 50 having babies is soaring figures show, days after it was announced a 63-year-old would become a mother.

In 1992, just one baby was born to a mother aged 50 or over, according to UK figures from the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority.

But in 2002, 24 babies were born to women in that age group after IVF treatment.

The NHS does not treat women over 39, but there is no legal IVF age limit.

This is reflecting a natural trend of women having babies later
Dr Alan Pacey, British Fertility Society

However, doctors have to make their own decision about whether a post-menopausal woman is suitable for treatment.

Last week, it was revealed that Dr Patricia Rashbrook, of Lewes, East Sussex, was to become Britain's oldest mother when she gives birth this summer at the age of 63.

She was treated abroad, by the controversial Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori.

'No legal limit'

The HFEA figures show that from 1992 to 2002, the number of babies born after IVF trebled, rising from 2,360 to 7,740.

They also show a steady increase in the number of women aged 40 and over seeking IVF treatment.

In 1992, 1,438 women aged 40 to 44 had IVF treatment, with 77 babies born.

In the same year, 140 women aged 45 to 49 had IVF, giving birth to 15 babies. And three women aged 50 or over had treatment, with one giving birth.

By 2002, these numbers had soared. Over 7,700 women aged 40 to 44 had IVF, with 524 babies born and 595 women aged 45 to 49 had IVF treatment, with 106 live births.

And 96 women aged 50 or over had IVF, resulting in 24 live births.

John Paul Maytum, of the HFEA, said: "When parliament passed the laws governing fertility treatment in 1990, it made it clear that there should not be an age limit for IVF treatment in this country but the decision should be left to the clinical judgement of individual doctors.

"However, doctors do have to take into account the welfare of any child born which includes the family's ability to care for the child throughout its childhood."

'No funding'

Doctors also have to bear in mind that older mothers are at increased risk of stroke, heart attack, pre-eclampsia, diabetes, high blood pressure and multiple births.

Dr Allan Pacey, of the British Fertility Society, said: "This is reflecting a general trend of women having babies later."

But he said one other reason for a surge in women in their 40s having IVF was that they had got to the top of the NHS waiting list too late.

"They may have been on a waiting list for years, but have reached the top when they are past the NHS limit of 39 or because their health authority won't pay for IVF."

The oldest mother in the UK is Liz Buttle, from Wales who was 60 years old when she gave birth to a son, Joseph, in 1997.

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