The average age of women becoming mothers has risen in the United States, and in the last 20 years, a few women have even entered motherhood in their 60s.
By implanting embryos produced by in-vitro fertilization using egg cells donated by younger women, women who have passed menopause can become pregnant and give birth.
A new study of 101 women age 50 and older who had children using donated eggs reveals that pregnancy at this age carries about the same risks as similarly induced pregnancies in younger women. The study is the largest one to date looking at pregnancy in post-menopausal women.
“These women do really pretty well,” said Dr. Mark Sauer, senior author of the article and chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Columbia University Medical Center, where all the women in the study received IVF.
“If they’re well-screened and well cared for, they really should do O.K.,” Sauer said.
The study found women over age 50 had similar rates of complications, such as gestational diabetes and preterm labor, as women under age 42 who became pregnant after receiving donated eggs.
And although the older women had slightly higher rates of high blood pressure, that difference was small, and may have been due to chance.
The study is published in the February issue of the American Journal of Perinatology.
Pregnancy at older ages
While Sauer said the results of the study were surprising in terms of how well older mothers did, he noted that the women were highly screened and highly motivated.
“These are smart, educated, well-off people that are doing this,” he said, and pregnancy after 50 is not common — the 101 cases in the study were collected over a decade.
One 49-year-old woman in the study died while pregnant (she was included in the study because she would have been 50 at the delivery). She had concealed from the doctors that she smoked three packs of cigarettes a day, which the doctors said likely contributed to her heart attack.
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