real life

A 65-year-old woman has given birth to quads.

A 65 year old woman has given birth. Is that a good thing?

I’m usually thrilled by the miracle of new life, but one of the latest miracles of medicine is leaving me rather sickened. Another has me feeling touched – but confused.

A 65-year-old German woman has given birth to quadruplets.

Annegret Raunigk had three boys and a girl by Caesarean section at a Berlin hospital. While the babies were born extremely prematurely, at 26 weeks, the babies have a “good chance of surviving”.

Congratulations on new life and being the world’s oldest woman to have quads, Annegret. And best of luck with bringing up children who may have developmental problems for life while you cope with being a single mother to 13 children and 7 grandchildren.

Annegret Raunigk, pictured in 2005 with her then 13 children

I’m being harsh, I know. Perhaps criticism should also be directed at the fertility clinic in the Ukraine. No doubt doctors were thrilled at their success in reversing menopause with hormones and implanting the young donor eggs fertilised by stranger’s sperm.

But did they really think about the repercussions of their cleverness?

The clinic is not the only one in the world with questionable ethics.  Spanish woman Maria del Carmen Bousada de Lara was 66 when she had IVF treatment in America and then had twins in 2006.  She was the world’s oldest mother until she died before her boys turned three.

India’s IVF clinics pride themselves on post-menopausal babies.  Rajo Devi Lohan had a child at 69 after three rounds of IVF that nearly killed her. The world’s oldest mother is believed to be Indian woman Omkari Singh, who gave birth to twins at the age of 70 after selling her family’s buffalos, mortgaging their land, spending their life savings and taking out a loan. The girl died but the boy is her pride and joy.

Mrs Singh, the world’s oldest mother

Science and modern medicine can do wonderful things. They can reverse menopause and make grandmothers mothers, they can extend life and delay death, they can exploit desperate desire and make some doctors and IVF clinic owners a lot of money.

But they can’t make us sensible, ethical and unselfish. And they certainly can’t eradicate exhaustion and tiredness.

Here’s a different story about older mothers. It makes me feel touched and less confused.

Debrief Daily can confirm a 52-year-old Australian woman recently gave birth to her own grandchild. The child was created from the sperm of her son and the egg of her son’s boyfriend’s sister. The woman gave a selfless gift to her son and all went well, but the fathers are not keen to talk to the media. Her doctor has told us he has heard of similar cases. Indeed, a 61-year-old American, Kristine Casey, gave birth to her grandson for her daughter in 2001 and other grandmothers have done the same in the UK and India.

Sara Connell watches her mother Kristine Casey have an ultrasound

But as we push the age of childbirth older and older. It’s important to ask what’s behind the push, how far we should go … and for who.

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There are health risks to older mothers of late pregnancy.

There are health risks to babies from older mothers. There are complications with multiple pregnancies.

There are higher costs of care for mother and child (or children).  And there are questions about the life those children will have.

There’s no national legislation imposing a maximum age for IVF in Australia and doctors are divided over whether there should be. There are guidelines in some states that recommend 50 years as the maximum age. IVF Australia says it usually imposes a limit of 52 as that is the natural age of menopause.  But Medical Director Dr Peter Illingworth says it’s a different case if the child is being carried for a younger couple; then cases are assessed on an individual basis.  He says the clinic that implanted four embryos into a 65 year old woman is grossly irresponsible.

Here are some mums, you may know, who have had children over 40. (Post continues after gallery.)

Interestingly a few years ago one of Britain’s oldest IVF mothers (who gave birth at 57) called for an age limit of 50 years for women seeking infertility treatment.  Now in her 60s, Susan Tollefson doesn’t regret having her daughter, but has said she struggles with raising a child, and with knowing that she has limited time to see her daughter grow up.

I know there are many wonderful grandparents raising their grandchildren. I also know many have a hard time.

We don’t live in a communal society where we come home from hospital and hand over the baby to a tribe. We still have a nuclear family and the later in life we have a child the younger that child will be when they possibly have to live without a parent.

Besides that, there are children in desperate need of foster parents and carers.

Watch social media react to the news of the 65 year old mother. (Post continues after gallery).

The St James Ethics Centre also has concerns about the welfare of the children.  Executive Director Simon Longstaff says a 65-year-old mother “seems to be having the children to satisfy her own desires and not for their intrinsic values”.  He says as the mother grows older, the raising of the children will fall on her other children.

“The children will grow up to have the suspicion that they were conceived not as act of love for them, but to satisfy their mother’s own needs.’

Surrogacy is an altruistic act and a different ethical dilemma, shifting the risk to the grandmother/carrier rather than the child.

Still, it’s a hell of a way to get a grandchild.

Could you do it? Do you know anyone who has had a child for their child or had their own baby while aged way over 50?

Did you like this? Then you might want to read…

Survey calls for IVF to be banned for women over the age of 40.

This woman is a ‘mum’ to over 400 kids.

IVF data could save Australians a lot of heartbreak (and money). So why isn’t it made public?

IVF for older women: How old is too old to have children?

This post was originally published on Debrief Daily and has been republished with full permission.

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