Women in their 60s 'are perfectly good mothers'

Age is no bar to being a good mother and there is no reasonto prevent pensioners from becoming parents, researchers have found.

Women in their 50s and 60s who conceive after fertility treatment are just as capable of being good parents as women in their 30s and 40s, a study has shown.

The finding will bring hope to thousands of women who have delayed parenthood and seek help late in life to have a family.

Even though they run greater risks of complications during pregnancy and childbirth, once their children are born they are just as good at raising them.

It will also give a boost to research into egg freezing, which could allow career women in their 20s to store their eggs for future use in their 40s or 50s or even later.

If egg freezing becomes a practical possibility for the average woman it could fuel a boom in demand for fertility treatment from 40 and 50 year olds.

Researchers from the University of Southern California studied the mental and physical health of 150 women, a third of whom had become parents in their 50s after in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) with donor eggs.

They found there was no significant difference in the health or stress levels of the older women, compared with younger groups in their 40s and 30s, likely to reduce their parenting capacity.

All the women gave birth between 1992 and 2004 at the Women and Children's hospital in Los Angeles and were sent questionnaires, of which half were returned. On mental functioning, the over-50s were the only group who scored significantly higher than the national average.

The finding goes some way to answering critics, who have accused women who seek fertility treatment in their 50s and 60s of being selfish and ignoring the welfare of their children.

But the study was criticised by a British specialist who said it followed women with children up to the age of 12 and did not show how older mothers would cope in their 60s and 70s when their children reached the more challenging teenage years.

Patricia Rashbrook, from Lewes, east Sussex, who became Britain's oldest mother at the age of 62 last July, defended herself against charges that she would be 80 before her child left school by saying it was the "quality of parenting that matters, not age." The study lends support to her case.

Anne Steiner, who led the research to be presented to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in New Orleans tomorrow, said: "The conclusion from this study, though it is limited and of small size, is that if we look from the perspective of stress and physical and mental functioning, it doesn't seem we can restrict parenting based on these reasons."

All the children in the study were "young kids" with the oldest aged 10 to 12. "[The study] tells us about the relationship between parents and young children but it can't tell us anything about what might happen when they become teenagers. But there is reason to say, in the absence of other data, that maybe we shouldn't jump to the conclusion that it's wrong for women to become mothers at this age."

Bill Ledger, professor of obstetrics at the University of Sheffield, said: "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. 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."

In Britain, there is no official upper age limit for fertility treatment but most IVF clinics decline to treat women over 45 because of the increased risks of pregnancy. For NHS treatment the age limit is 39 and many clinics impose lower limits.

However, latest official figures show more than 20 babies a year are born to women over 50 after private treatment at private British fertility clinics.

Patricia Rashbrook, a child psychiatrist, travelled to Eastern Europe for treatment by Professor Severino Antinori, the Italian fertility specialist who has courted controversy by pushing the age boundaries of motherhood.

The interim head of the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, has given his support to would-be mothers in their 50s and 60s saying they should not be banned from becoming parents.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Keith Fraser says we should give Isis sympathises free flights to join Isis (AFP)
news
Life and Style
Google celebrates the 126th anniversary of the Eiffel Tower opening its doors to the public for the first time
techGoogle celebrates Paris's iconic landmark, which opened to the public 126 years ago today
News
Cleopatra the tortoise suffers from a painful disease that causes her shell to disintegrate; her new prosthetic one has been custom-made for her using 3D printing technology
newsCleopatra had been suffering from 'pyramiding'
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Coachella and Lollapalooza festivals have both listed the selfie stick devices as “prohibited items”
music
Sport
Nigel Owens was targeted on Twitter because of his sexuality during the Six Nations finale between England and France earlier this month
rugbyReferee Nigel Owens on coming out, and homophobic Twitter abuse
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

    £22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

    Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

    £40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

    Day In a Page

    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor