Pregnancy later in life: What drives these women?

We asked her her age twice on the phone, thinking we hadn’t heard from her. But this really happened: Petra, a retired postman from Frankfurt, gave birth to a 66-year-old daughter, thanks to artificial insemination. For a fee, both sperm and eggs were donated, and the treatment took place in a clinic in Ukraine (this article was written before the current war). Price: 9900 euros including flights. When her daughter Lina turns 10, Petra will be 76 years old.

“And I hope you will accept me as I am,” says the mother, who already has two sons, one of 25 students studying, and one of 11. “I am proud that I was able to successfully achieve this pregnancy and that I have a beautiful baby. It is a miracle.”

The older the mother, the greater the risk of complications

Above all, an example of medical ingenuity. Since the mother is older, the complications can be more serious: high blood pressure, diabetes, pre-eclampsia … not to mention the countless miscarriages and the birth of babies too early. But how was this woman so longing for a child at an age when you would normally sit on your lap with your grandchildren?

Petra explains: “I gave birth to my youngest son at 55 thanks to IVF in England, with an egg I donated and sperm to my husband. We wanted to live the adventure all over again and give him a sister or a brother. Meanwhile, my husband passed away, but even as a widow I kept longing. into a child. And with this child, I fulfilled a promise we made to each other.”

Petra brushes all objections aside – the risks to her, the fact that Lena can be orphaned at a young age. “It’s my life and my choice. I don’t have to be held accountable. Of course I weighed the pros and cons, but really life is a series of risks, at any age.”

Handsome donor please

Is Petra an exception? To her it all seems like science fiction: “I chose sperm and egg donors from an Internet catalog, with my son. In the end we had the choice between two mothers, and that was very difficult. In the end we chose a nurse because my son thought she was beautiful and because she looked like me physically.” The sperm donor is a writer,” she said. H

Pregnancy at her age is a big exception*, yet more and more elderly mothers are joining in, especially in Western countries. We owe this to flexible legislation in countries like Spain and Ukraine, and specialist clinics benefit from it. But for now, British authorities have only investigated the number of pregnancies that occur when the biological clock should have been ticked long ago. According to the US government agency’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the pregnancy rate among women over 50 increased by 165% between 2000 and 2013 in the UK. Every week, three women over the age of 50 give birth.

Where is the late maternity line?

Supermodel Naomi Campbell (50) surprised the world last year when she announced that she had given birth to a daughter. Is the late motherhood limit 50? That wasn’t the case for Dominic Staub, MD, a gynecologist at UZ Brussel Fertility Center. “Over the past 30 years, the psychological limits of IVF treatment have shifted from 35 to 47. But starting at the age of 43, the health insurance fund no longer reimburses you for IVF, which means you have to pay for the entire treatment yourself.

The average age for egg freezing is 35 years. 80% do so because they are single or in a new relationship. Frozen eggs have a shelf life of ten years, which gives women a certain margin and certainty about quality, which is also better at 30 than 35. Because women in Belgium are no longer entitled to eggs from the age of 45, this is also a good alternative.”

I hope to be a hundred

What are the strongest motives of these women? According to Professor Friedman, there is often talk of a new love, less often a younger man. “Women may also want to feel young again. They don’t always tell you that.” According to psychologist Genevieve DeList, storing eggs can also have an unexpected negative effect: Women can continue to delay pregnancy for longer.

“Thanks to my son Andres, who is now 3, I feel 35 instead of 53,” Sarah Crowley says. The London woman dreamed of children for years. A busy career and the lack of a potential father in sight in time are two of the main reasons 50-year-olds cite late motherhood. The fact that this coincides with menopause is clearly not an objection.

When Sarah met Esteban at the age of forty-three or thirteen years younger than her, they wanted to start having children quickly. It does not work. “I was already too old to get pregnant. But with eggs donated from a younger woman and sperm for Esteban, I had a 60% chance.” The couple went to Spain, where waiting times are shorter than in London. But it turned out that Sarah had an autoimmune disorder that made things more complicated. “I did everything I do in my job: I persevered despite all the criticism. I kept Esteban motivated, because after five failed attempts he wanted to give up. After all, our whole life was put on hold.”

After seven long years, Sarah’s Spanish doctor finally received some good news: she was pregnant with twins. A boy and a girl. Doctors had implanted multiple embryos to increase the chance of having at least one child. “I used to live on a pink cloud, but I also wondered if my 50-year-old body would be able to hold two children.” When she was four months pregnant, Andres’ twin sister died in the womb, and she had to carry the baby to term.

That was horrible. I was thinking every day, ‘What if the other kid dies too, after all that hard treatment, all that travel, all that expense, all those years?’ Little angel, watch out for your brother until he’s born “…” Sarah is determined to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible, like all the older moms we’ve met. She plays sports, monitors her diet, and hopes to live to 100 so that she can one day celebrate Andres’ 50th birthday.

Go to Ukraine

Other older moms are frustrated at not seeing their older child grow up, and now they all want to do better with a new baby. Like Kristen, fifty-five is divorced. “I love watching my twins sleep at night and caress their feet. My love for children does not diminish my love for my two older children, a girl and a boy, aged between 25 and 27. But as a young mother who works in a restaurant on the coast, I lead a very busy life. Basically at the hands of their grandparents and their father. Now I’m alone and I have more time to myself, I have more money than I did when I was 30, and I still have so much love to give.”

Older children were very shocked. “My daughter thought this was irresponsible and threatened that she would never talk to me again if she went for IVF. She eventually admitted that she was having trouble conceiving and thought it was unfair to expect a baby at 53. I felt guilty, though of course I didn’t. which mistake “.

Now Kristen is encouraging her daughter to get pregnant with medical help. In the same clinic you live in, in Ukraine, because the waiting times in France are very long.

‘treated with contempt’

How do doctors feel about older women who get pregnant from abroad? Not always benevolent, sometimes downright hostile. “I was treated with contempt, as if I was an idiot, and I felt very guilty. Brigitte, a lawyer who works in banks, said it is easier to have a child at 50 if you are in a prestigious position or a celebrity than if you are just an ordinary woman.”

Older mothers are also constantly exposed to intrusive questions and ridicule. “I only answer questions if they don’t see me as an attraction,” Kristen says. “I look younger, so I will just say I am forty-five and have adopted children. Then he leaves me alone.” Brigitte then feels left out of the group of young mothers who laugh at her a little. She is often thought of as the grandmother of her 8-year-old daughter.

Sarah learns from London that “Andres’ friends at school will have mothers who are much younger than him. Fortunately, we live in a very open and non-conformist city. There are all kinds of fathers here: gay, single, married again…” Like many mothers The older, Sarah feels a distance between herself and her friends. “Especially when they talk about retirement later – I can’t do that, I don’t have the right to get old – or their children’s higher education. Soon Andres will go to kindergarten. “

Don’t scare the guys

These pregnant single women over 50 don’t seem to deter men after all. Ann, 51, is the best proof of that. “I didn’t feel like getting married or having kids for a long time. I didn’t crave having a baby until I was 35. When I was four months pregnant after an IVF treatment in Spain, I met a divorced man who was already a grandfather. The second night I gathered my courage And I told him I was pregnant. To my surprise, he didn’t run. I still can’t believe that with such joy and calm he proceeds to have a child who is not even his own.”

Meanwhile, Sarah Crowley decided to become a coach for older moms. “Because if you are born at an older age, you have to use all your strength. I want to show a generation that is still invisible, because we are active in all possible areas.

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