Sunday 19 January 2020

A Spanish woman has just had a baby at the age of 62. Well, good for her

A 62-year-old Spanish woman has given birth to a healthy girl and encourages women in their later years to imitate her if they want to. Photo: AP
A 62-year-old Spanish woman has given birth to a healthy girl and encourages women in their later years to imitate her if they want to. Photo: AP

Anton Savage

A 62-year-old woman in Spain has just given birth to her third child. Mother and baby are doing well after the C-section delivery, but the birth has raised questions across the EU as to whether or not there should be a cut-off age for IVF treatment.

It’s not the first time this issue has arisen – in August, the birth of a child to a 62-year-old Australian woman led a pioneer of IVF in her country to describe the procedure as “social, not medical IVF”.

It’s easy to root ethical rules based on biological realities, but that doesn’t make it right.

A woman may spend up to a third of her life unable to have children, while a man may spend none of his life with such constraints. Hard to see that as fair.

Human women are almost uniquely unlucky in this regard – only pilot and killer whales have similarly long post-meno-pausal lives.

The whales have no option regarding this fate, but women do. Why should they say “my body has opted out of child-bearing, so I’ll just have to accept it”?

The common argument against that acceptance is that life expectancy is increasing, so women’s ability to have children no longer fits in with our modern world.

But that’s a fallacy. Life expectancy figures are usually calculated from birth, and in bygone eras the early years were a difficult time for us humans.

If, several hundred years ago, you made it to 20, you had a good chance of lasting into old age.

In other words, middle to old age was the same back then as now.

But women should not have to rely on such an argument. What’s wrong with the simple truth? A woman at 60 is likely to live at least another 20 years. If she is healthy and fit and wants a baby, why wouldn’t she?

No debate raged when Ronnie Wood announced his twins at 69. Why the double standard? If it’s OK to use donor or frozen eggs for a 25-year-old who can’t conceive, why draw a line at 55?

Pat Gallant-Charette is on her way to being only the seventh person in history to complete the Oceans Seven – the most difficult series of open ocean swims in the world. She’s 65.

It’s a fair bet that she’d handle a pregnancy better than a 35-year-old who hasn’t got off the couch in a decade. It’s also a fair bet that 90pc of doctors would refuse to facilitate her in becoming pregnant.

Obviously there must be some cut-off – medical experts say the impact of a pregnancy can have very negative effects on an ageing body and on the child that body produces.

But in finding that cut-off, the objective should be overcoming biological sexual inequality, not blindly reinforcing it.

Online Editors

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