British woman has test-tube twins at 54

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The Independent Online
Another record in fertility treatment was broken yesterday with the disclosure that a woman aged 54 has given birth to twins following in vitro fertilisation.

Eleanor Armstrong-Perlman cheated nature by giving birth to the twins at University College Hospital, London, yesterday to become Britain's oldest mother of a test-tube baby.

Mrs Armstrong-Perlman, who is married to a lecturer at the London School of Economics, exceeds by two years the previous record-holder, Pauline Lyon, who gave birth to a daughter in April 1995 at the age of 52.

Both women were treated by Professor Ian Craft of the London Gynaecology and Fertility Centre in Harley Street, who has argued strongly that older women should not be barred from fertility treatment. Many of his colleagues disagree and most fertility clinics operate an age bar between 45 and 50 because of the risk that ageing parents may not be able to cope.

A spokesman for University College Hospital said both mother and twins were well.

No upper age limit is set for fertility treatment by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which licenses IVF clinics, but doctors are required to take it into account under the authority's code of practice, along with other factors affecting the welfare of the child, in considering the suitability of patients.

A spokesman said there were no plans to impose an upper age limit but the authority would listen to arguments if they were put to it. "We are not aware of any great concern in this area at the moment. No provision of the 1990 act or the code of practice has been contravened in this case."

Latest figures from the authority show that out of almost 25,000 cycles of treatment with IVF given to women in 1994, 338 were to women over 45, which resulted in 41 births. The main bar to post-menopausal motherhood is the age of the egg. With donated eggs from a twenty-something, older women can carry the developing foetus and give birth into their sixties.

The oldest woman in Britain to undergo fertility treatment is Alison Cobb, who was treated three years ago at a clinic in Nottingham at the age of 59. However, her treatment was stopped after the birth of twins to another 59-year-old in Italy was greeted with outrage.

Mrs Cobb, a grandmother of four, wanted a child for her husband, Stephen, who is 14 years her junior and is childless. She went to Rome for treatment from Professor Severino Antinori, the controversial Italian gynaecologist who has treated several post-menopausal women, but her three attempts at IVF were unsuccessful and she has now pinned her hopes on surrogacy.

The world's oldest test-tube mother is Arceli Keh, a 63-year-old Filipino American who lied about her age to get treatment at a clinic in Los Angeles. She gave birth to a daughter last month after telling doctors she was 53.