Critics are having a field day after a Tasmanian woman—who does not wish to be identified—became Australia's oldest first-time mom at the age of 62.
After becoming pregnant using IVF and a fertilized donor embryo, the woman gave birth on Monday via C-section at 34 weeks. She was supported by her 78-year-old husband throughout the procedure, and is currently in the hospital recovering. But the news of her advanced age quickly had people calling her everything from unreasonable and irresponsible, to an unfair burden on taxpayers.
Even Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon, M.D., chimed in, slamming the new mom on Twitter for being both selfish and wrong.
Some commenters were quick to rush to the mom's defense—"Sit down, Dr. Gannon," wrote one—pointing out that it is her right to get pregnant if she chooses. But Gannon maintains this is an issue of the child's rights—not the mother's.
"What about the other people who have a right, including the child itself, and the community in which it is born, and the taxpayers of this country?" he asked The Guardian. "The reality is that once this woman arrived back in Australia after receiving IVF overseas, she would then receive best-practice obstetric care and there is a significant expense from that which falls on the taxpayer."
Fair enough. Still, not everyone agrees with Gannon. Take Michael Chapman, president of the Fertility Society of Australia, who sees thing from a different perspective.
"No one should be criticizing her," he told The Guardian. "I think we're all selfish in having babies and one of the main motives of having them is self-fulfilment and selfishness, so I don't criticize her at all for that."
Chapman did admit, however, that if he had been the treating doctor, he would have been "terrified"about the health risks to the mom and her child.
"We don't really know the risks at that age," he explained. "But we do know blood vessels in people over 60 are not the same as in those over 30 in their capacity for carrying the extra load of pregnancy, so hypertension, diabetes, and myocardial infarction [heart attack] are all going to be more likely."
According to ACOG, older women are also at increased risk of preterm labor and preterm birth, which can in turn lead to serious short- and long-term health problems in their babies. And they are more likely to need a C-section, which carries risks of infection, injury to organs such as the bowel or bladder, and reactions to the anesthesia. It's because of these risks that Australian facilities do not usually perform IVF on women over the age 51.
But what about the health risks that come from being an older father? Gannon acknowledges them, but says the possible consequences of using sperm from older dads are much more subtle.
"Their involvement in reproduction often lasts seconds rather than months," he told The Guardian.
Which pretty much explains how Mick Jagger just became dad again for the eighth time at the ripe old age of 72.