USC Fertility


How Old is Too Old to Give Birth?

It seems that new mothers are getting older all the time.

Early last December, India’s Rajo Devi tied fellow countrywoman Omkari Panwar as the world’s oldest new mother when she gave birth to a daughter at age 70. Panwar had given birth to twins—a boy and a girl—in May of 2008. Previously, the global record had been held by Romania’s Adriana Iliescu, who had a girl in 2006 at age 66.

Stateside, Lauren Cohen of Paramus, New Jersey, made the headlines in 2006 when she gave birth to boy/girl twins at age of 59. And just last November, 56-year-old Jaci Dalenberg served as the surrogate for her daughter and son-in-law and delivered her own triplet granddaughters—at age 56.

Now, I’m absolutely supportive of extending the age for childbearing. After all, I wrote the book on it, Rewinding Your Biological Clock: Motherhood Late in Life. But when is old just too old?

We noted in our review of pregnancy outcomes among women over 50 (JAMA, November 13, 2002, volume 288, no. 18, pp2320-2323), that in general, women over 50 can have successful pregnancies and healthy babies. In fact, we led the way to make pregnancies for women over 50 a reality 15 years ago (Lancet 1993;341:321-323).

However, we found that when the moms were over 54 at the time of delivery, the risks of pregnancy-associated high blood pressure were a whopping 60%. This can be risky, because when the blood pressure starts to rise, the baby may have to be delivered prematurely. And that has risks of its own.

So for now, we’re holding the line at delivering prior to age 55. After that, we recommend gestational surrogacy.

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