Posted by on Jul 27, 2009 in fertility | 4 comments


I ran across a piece on over the weekend,  in which a U.S. fertility doctor defends his decision to treat older recipients of fertility treatments. The result? Pregnancies well into a time in life when a woman is typically experiencing the cessation of reproduction and moving into menopause.

Unfortunately, the mother featured in the story died at age 69, leaving behind two-year old twins.

While the doctor states that he would prefer to treat women who are likely to live long enough to parent their children, he also asks the following:  “How old is too old to become a mom?”

Ironically, a little over a month ago, researchers presented data at meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology outlining successes in ovarian transplants. These procedures involve removing the ovaries and then freezing and preserving them for implantation at a later date.

Although this technique has traditionally been used to preserve ovarian function among women undergoing chemotherapy, the option is now being extended to women with other illnesses. However, before ovarian transplant becomes more widely available, for example, to women in their 20s or 30s who might want to delay childbirth until later in life, researchers say that they need to determine how the ovary will function, e.g. as a 30 year- old ovary in a 45 year- old woman or as a 45-year old ovary?

Both of these reports strike me as Frankensteinian, playing  with nature in the most unnatural way to delay an event, reproductive decline,  that has long defined human evolution.

Are fertility and ovarian treatments for the menopausal set poised to replace HRT as the panacea for aging? How old is too old? Like Dr. Frankenstein, have we gone too far?


  1. 7-27-2009

    I would have to agree with you Liz on the Frankenstein-esque feel to this. The first thing that pops into my head is the well being of the actual children involved in these types of pregnancies – will they have all the chances to lead a healthy life? The 67 year old mother giving birth just sounded pretty odd to me.

  2. 8-12-2009

    Interesting debate, isn’t it? I find myself able to make arguments for both sides, especially as a 38-year old woman who is just getting married for the first time and does not want to start a marriage with motherhood.

    Right now, I think I’ll wait to see if the urge strikes during my natural child-bearing years (the few I have left), and if it comes later — plan on adopting. What are the rules around later-in-life adoption? Do you have the same feelings on that as you do natural childbirth? Just curious…

    • 8-12-2009

      I don’t look at it as “rules” but rather reason. I am always open to individual decision making and preference. Personally, I feel the same way – children need parents and not parents who are not going to stick around long enough to raise them. So, it’s a dilemma for sure.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  3. 8-13-2009

    Fair enough; that makes sense to me too — and certainly in my mind there is a cut-off for even adoption that comes long before 60! However, I’ve learned never to say “never”…advances in medical care and longevity are happening at greater speeds all the time, so today’s 60 could be tomorrow’s 45.

    Thanks for the interesting convo!


  1. The Roundup: July news and tidbits « Flashfree - [...] Menopausal pregnancy? – Dr. Frankenstein would’ve had a field day:  a provocative tale of midlife pregnancies and ovarian transplants.…

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