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.

News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • 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

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence