Fifty-something mothers

There has been a lot of media excitement about newly-released statistics showing an increase in the number of women in their fifties giving birth – and the lack of understanding about the subject is summed up by this article in the Telegraph. 

According to the Telegraph, one of the reasons for the increase in the number of fifty-something mothers is “changing medical advice”.  I am fascinated by this, and would love to be enlightened as to the nature of this changing advice. Most fertility clinics stop treating women once they reach 50, obstetric advice is clearly not encouraging women to get pregnant when they are older and the Chief Medical Officer warned recently that women should not risk leaving it too late to get pregnant.  So, if anyone has any idea what “changing medical advice” the Telegraph is referring to, please let me know – let us all know…

The article also claims that IVF means that more women are willing to risk delaying having children – but fails to mention that IVF can offer nothing to women of 50+. IVF success rates are very low for women in their mid forties, and I have never met a fertility specialist who would offer standard IVF to a woman in her fifties as it would be a waste of time. Treating women with donor eggs is something else entirely, but even then, most fifty-somethings would need to travel overseas in order to find a clinic willing to treat them.

According to the Telegraph, “actress Tina Malone of Shameless gave birth to daughter Flame at the age of 50, after travelling to Cyprus for IVF treatment”.  Well, no actually she didn’t.  She had egg donation. It’s a very different thing and failing to clarify this is inaccurate and misleading.

The article also quotes a survey which it says found that “almost three-quarters of people do not think women should receive IVF to help them conceive beyond their natural childbearing years”.  As IVF really can’t help women conceive beyond their natural childbearing years, I am not sure why anyone even asked the question. IVF is a treatment for infertility, not for age.

If reporters for national broadsheets seem not to understand the facts, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that so many women are confused…

2 thoughts on “Fifty-something mothers

  1. SO agree Kate. Did you see the response Mariella Frostrup, in her guise as agony aunt in the Observer colour supp, give to a women with secondary infertility and approaching 40? MF herself apparently conceived her two children without help at age 42 and 43 and says she knows loads of other women who have done so. It was a thoughtless and unkind response, lacking in compassion and doing nothing to challenge the myth of it being easy to get pregnant in your forties.

    • Thanks Olivia – I didn’t see the Mariella Frostrup agony aunt response on this – will check it out.

      I think many women who had children later themselves fail to appreciate how fortunate they were. Although they may mean well by trying to encourage others not to give up, it really isn’t very helpful or compassionate as you so rightly point out..

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