Over 50s mums increase as IVF clinics relax rules

woman_with_baby_at_clinicMore are coming forward as general fitness improves among women
Growing numbers of women are giving birth in their 50s as IVF clinics relax rules on treating older patients, official figures reveal. More than 100 women aged 50 and over had babies last year in the UK a 55 per cent increase on 2008.
The figure

In 2009, 140,000 babies were born to women aged 35 or older one in five of all births in England and Wales.

Fathers are also increasingly likely to be close to middle age when they are faced with bringing up young children. Latest figures show that two thirds of new fathers are over 30.

With the chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy child plummeting with age, most of the new mothers in their 50s will have used donor eggs or embryos donated by younger women to help them achieve their dreams of motherhood.

The NHS will not treat women past the age of 39. But private fertility clinics are free to use their discretion, and while many set the cut-off at 50, more and more women are becoming parents at the age that others are becoming grandparents.

Fertility clinics with patients in their 50s include the London Womens Clinic, which in the past four years has treated eight women aged 50 to 54.

Five have had babies, one had a miscarriage and two did not become pregnant. All were treated with the eggs of younger women who were given cut-price IVF in return.

Kamal Ahuja, the clinics director, said the decision to treat is based on the womans health, the age of the father, their financial security and whether there is an extended family to help care for the infant.

Working with a clinic in the Ukraine, the Bridge fertility clinic in central London has treated 30 women aged 50-plus in the past four years.

Many say they are more financially and emotionally stable than they were in their 20s and 30s. Others had struggled for years to achieve their dream of motherhood.

Juliet Le Page only experienced a desire to have a baby when she met her future husband at the age of 43.

She underwent fertility treatment in September 2005, and in June 2006 she gave birth to son Rafe when she was 47 years old.

But Le Page was soon desperate for her second child. Ruled too old to receive assisted conception in the UK, she went to Spain where she received an egg from a donor, at a cost of 8,000, and gave birth aged 50 to her second child, Julia.

The former physiotherapist, who now runs a fertility advice business, said: I am a lot more child-focused now. If I had been in my 20s, knowing what I was like then, I would have been thinking What can I do tonight? rather than What can the children do?

Dr Simon Thornton, of the Care chain of fertility clinics, said: More women are coming forward in their late 40s and early 50s due to the increase in general fitness.

Many women do look extremely well. Fifty now is not what 50 was.

But while the use of a younger womans eggs will cut the odds of genetic defects like Downs syndrome, older women are still at higher risk of complications in pregnancy and labour.

Critics also question whether someone who gives birth late in life will live long enough to see their child into adulthood.

Maria Carmen del Bousada, the worlds oldest mother, died from cancer last year, leaving behind two-year-old twin sons. The 69-year-old single mother had proclaimed that longevity ran in her family.

Phillipa Taylor, of Christian charity Care, said: Above all, the doctors responsibility is to consider the childs best interests and not the desires of would-be mothers.

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