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Is Childbirth Over 60 OK? Oldest Woman from Spain Gave Birth to Twins at Age 66, Now a Chinese Woman at 60

First Posted: Dec 27, 2013 05:32 PM EST
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Women try to do it all -- juggle work, motherhood, all while trying to be of sound mind and body throughout the beautifully rewarding -- yet sometimes taxing process. While women have proved that this monumental feat is indeed possible, when it comes to trying again later in life, when is a woman too old to bear children? And what should the cutoff age be when receiving in vitro fertilization (IVF)?

The oldest woman to give birth anywhere, according to the Guinness Book of Records, was Maria del Carmen Bousada Lara of Spain, who had twin boys by Caesarean in 2006 aged 66 years 358 days. She died of cancer three years later.

According to earlier reports from the Guardian, Bousada Lara, a single mother and retired sales assistant from Cádiz, southern Spain, became the world's oldest mother at the age of 66. She had twin boys by caesarean in 2006, but she died of cancer just two-and-a-half years after giving birth to twins, highlighting the controversial questions regarding the ethics of fertility treatment for women past natural childbearing age.

After several trips to a fertility clinic in Los Angeles, where she lied about her age, Bousada Lara became pregnant. She told the Pacific Fertility Clinic that she was 55, which was the cut-off age. In order to pay for the treatment, she sold her apartment.

"An 18-year-old girl provided the egg and an Italian-American sperm donor provided the sperm so that, after hormone treatment to reverse menopause, an embryo could be implanted in her uterus.

"After a difficult pregnancy the twins were born by caesarean section at a clinic in Barcelona, eastern Spain, a week before her 67th birthday. Shortly after giving birth Bousada told the News of the World that she hoped to live until she was 101, like her mother," (who had already passed away at the time.)

"Everyone has to have children at the right time for them. This was the right time for me. It was something I always dreamed of," she said.

Today, a news report from the China Daily said that a Chinese woman had twin girls at the age of 60 following IVF treatment after her only child died, making her possibly the oldest person in the country to give birth.

The publication reiterated that the case is "extremely unusual in China, which has long maintained a one-child policy, because of the woman's age."

"Worldwide, many countries and clinics impose limits on IVF treatment which is known to become less effective with age, and amid concerns for the resulting children's welfare."

Sheng Hailin, who is now 63, lost her first daughter -- who was in her late twenties -- in an accidental gas poisoning case in 2009the China Daily said.

"To survive and free myself of the loneliness, I decided to have another child in my old age," she explained.

According to the report, a military hospital in the eastern city of Hefei agreed to give her and her husband in vitro fertilization (IVF) therapy, yet it is still remains unclear as to why Hailin was accepted for treatment. 

"China has implemented its family planning law for over 30 years, sometimes brutally, restricting most parents to only one child, with exceptions including some rural families whose first child is a girl, ethnic minorities, and couples who are both only children.

"An estimated one million families nationwide have lost their sole descendant since the measure took effect in the late 1970s, and another four to seven million are expected to do so in the next 20 to 30 years."

Conicidentially, the report came as "China's top legislative committee is set to formalize a wider exception to the one-child limit, to allow couples where only one is an only child to have two offspring."

While Hailin, a retired medical worker, and her husband both have relatively good pensions, she has returned to work, travelling across the country to give health lectures to earn extra money to support the children, including more than 10,000 yuan ($1,600) a month to pay two baby sitters as she is no longer able to undertake physical tasks such as bathing, the China Daily reports.

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