A British woman who will give birth at the age of 63 insisted today that "a great deal of thought" had been invested in her baby son.

Dr Patricia Rashbrook, from Lewes in East Sussex, has two grown-up children but has recently remarried and undergone fertility treatment.

The child psychiatrist will become the oldest new mother in Britain when she gives birth in two months.

In a joint statement with her husband John Farrant, the couple said: "We wish to emphasise that this has not been an endeavour undertaken lightly or without courage.

"A great deal of thought has been given to planning and providing for the child's present and future well-being, medically, socially and materially."

The couple went on: "We are very happy to have given life to an already much-loved baby, and our wish now is to give him the peace and security he needs."

The couple said they were pleased with the pregnancy "notwithstanding itsunusual and potentially controversial aspects".

Refusing to go into details of the treatment received, the future parents insisted the child's welfare was their top priority and called for their privacy to be respected.

"We will therefore welcome a return to an undisturbed family life, in order that the well-being of both mother and child may continue to be promoted," they said."We have greatly valued the warm support shown to us by family, friends and colleagues."

It is thought that Dr Rashbrook travelled to Italy for fertility treatment by controversial doctor Severino Antinori.

The Italian, who runs a private fertility clinic in Rome, first made headlines in 1994 by helping a post-menopausal 63-year-old woman become pregnant with donor eggs and hormones.

He has said in the past he aimed to be the first to produce a baby cloned from an adult.

In 2004 he claimed that he knew of three cloned babies that had been born but refused to produce any evidence, citing legal reasons.

Dr Rushbrook's pregnancy has triggered serious criticism from pro-life groups, who branded her as " selfish".

Josephine Quintavalle, from Comment on Reproductive Ethics (Core), said: "It is extremely difficult for a child to have a mother who is as old as a grandmother would be.

"It is just that consumer society that wants absolutely everything, and never stops to think that a child is not a product.

"She is being selfish and sometimes greater love is saying no."

Ms Quintavalle said considerable energy was needed to raise a young child, not a woman in her 60s.

"You cannot buy life expectancy - that is the most important," she said. "It is a very worrying development."

Ms Quintavalle said the fact that Dr Rashbrook was living in a stable environment could not compensate for her age.

"I do not think that maternal love or the welfare of a child should be equated to financial well-being or a degree."

Campaign group Life also warned that having a baby at such a mature age was not in the best interests of the child.

Spokesman Matthew O'Gorman said: "We see this just as another component in our culture where children are treated as a means to an end.

"Quite simply, the child is not being looked after properly - one is not genuinely having regard for the welfare of the child.

"He or she is going to be without a mother or father at the most crucial moment of adolescence or when that child is growing to maturity.

"This is not the way to bring a child into the world."

Mr O'Gorman said IVF treatment meant that a child was "quite literally a product of manufacturing that meets the demands of the parents.

"What we are saying is that children are not products and should not be available on demand.

"One really should be quite worried and wary of such a development. IVF is not for making a profit."

Former Lewes neighbour Paul Pyant said Dr Rashbrook had brought up two happy stable children - one of whom is now a doctor - and had remarried recently.

"She is a very nice person and was a wonderful neighbour," he said. "I am very happy for her - it is remarkable really.

"I am sure it is going to be very hard work."

Dr Rashbrook is not the first woman in her 60s to become a new mother.

Liz Buttle, from Wales, was 60 years old when she gave birth to a son called Joseph in 1997.

The oldest woman in the world to give birth is thought to be Adriana Iliescu, from Romania, who had a daughter called Eliza Maria in January last year at the age of 66.