16 July 2009

Doc defends menopausal pregnancies

The fertility doctor of a Spanish woman believed to be the oldest woman ever to give birth who died this week denies menopausal women are unfit for pregnancy.

The death of a Spanish woman who is believed to be the oldest woman ever to give birth may be a tragedy for her children, but it doesn't mean menopausal women are unfit for pregnancy, the doctor who performed her fertility procedure said.

"Men have kids at that age all the time and they're praised as being virile and macho," said Dr Vicken Sahakian of the Pacific Fertility Clinic in Los Angeles.

"It's not unusual these days to treat women in their early 50s," he added. "I will defend that decision. I have no problem with it.

The tragedy here is a social tragedy that, because of her manipulating the system, we now have two children who will be motherless."

Reports Bousada had cancer
Maria del Carmen Bousada, who deceived the Los Angeles fertility clinic about her age and become the oldest woman to give birth, has died at 69, leaving behind two-year-old twins, newspapers reported Wednesday. The family did not give a cause, but there were reports she had a tumour.

Bousada had been in menopause for 18 years when she received in vitro fertilization at the clinic but she lied about her age, claiming to be 55 instead of 66. Bousada gave birth in December 2006.

Bousada used a false birth date on documents in order to meet Sahakian's age limit.

Sahakian said there is no US law governing the age of fertility recipients and he set one mainly for social reasons: He wants the women he makes mothers to be around until their children are adults.

When Sahakian learned of Bousada's deception, "I figured something might happen and wind up being a disaster for these kids, and unfortunately I was right," he said.

More and more older women giving birth
It's easy for women to lie to their doctors, he said.

"We don't ask for passports, obviously," Sahakian said. "When is the last time you went to a doctor and he asked you for a birth certificate? We're not detectives here."

Sahakian, however, said he has successfully treated dozens of women over the age of 50 in the past five to 10 years, including a 62-year-old who gave birth to a boy and a girl.

Technological advances have pushed up the childbearing age for women, Sahakian said, even though their pregnancies generally are riskier than those of younger women.

"How old is too old to become a mom?" Sahakian asked. "You are going to push childbearing age. It's happening. .... If you're 52 and you get pregnant, it's not news."

Sahakian also said he did not believe that the hormone therapy he used to "rejuvenate" Bousada's uterus had increased her cancer risk.

The hormone treatment lasted three weeks. Sahakian said he did not believe that increased the woman's cancer risk.

"Nothing she did (to get pregnant) caused her illness," he said. – (Sapa, July 2009)


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