Are quality mothers younger or just more dedicated? Researchers from the University of Southern California say that age is no bar to being a perfectly good mother. After studying the mental and physical health of 150 women, of whom about 50 had become IVF mothers in their 50s, they found that there was no significant difference in the health or stress levels of the older women. "If we look from the perspective of stress and mental functioning, it doesn’t seem we can restrict parenting based on these reasons," says lead researcher Anne Steiner.
A British specialist disputed the results. "The problem I have is not what happens to mothers at 50 to 55. What worries me is what happens when their children are 18 and they are in their 70s and 80s," said Bill Ledger, professor of obstetrics at the University of Sheffield. "I am not in favour of banning things, but I am concerned for the welfare of a child whose parents are as old as its peers grandparents."
The issue of geriatric mums is a lively one in the UK, where a 62- year-old doctor became Britain’s oldest mother last year. The interim head of the country’s fertility authority recently gave his support to older IVF mothers. Some in the IVF industry even frame it as a feminist issue, with one prominent specialist, Dr Gillian Lockwood, commenting: "I don’t agree with the view that men may father a child into their 80s but it’s wrong for women to want to extend their fertility after 45. That’s ageist and sexist." At the moment more than 20 babies are born each year to women in their 50s in Britain.
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