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Planning Retirement Online

A mother or a grandparent?

Does modern surrogacy mean there is now no age limit on being a parent?

LaterLife is for those of us who are over 50 and contemplating how to organize the rest of our lives…but for most of us our plans won’t include parenthood!!

Yet news this week about a 57 year old who has just had her first baby (albeit by a surrogate pregnancy) brings home the fact that the traditional image of senior people has just about hit the wall.

Caroline Griffiths, from the American state of Georgia, was a successful career woman who didn’t get married until her 40s. After trying to become a mother, in the end Caroline opted for surrogacy, using a donated egg fertilized by her husband’s sperm.

Now Caroline is the proud mum of little Grace and it is all happy families at the moment - although with such older parents, no doubt there will be obstacles to cross in the years ahead.

But Caroline is just one of many. There is talk this week of Elle Macpherson, who is turning 51, or expecting a new baby by surrogacy.

A few years ago the Channel Island’s Dawn Brooke was reported to having given birth after a natural conception at the age of 59.

But realistically the hope of having a natural child with a woman using her own eggs after the age of 50 is remote. This is because most women will have gone through menopause by their 50s and while most people think this is the end of periods, what it really means is that a woman’s ovaries no longer have any eggs to produce.

Women are born with about 2 million eggs and each month a group of these eggs begin to mature.
About 11 thousand of these die every month prior to puberty. From then on a woman has around three or four hundred thousand eggs remaining.

From these, the body selects one egg each month to ovulate while the rest, around 1000, are absorbed by the body.

Aspects such as hormone production, birth control pills, pregnancies or lifestyle will make no difference to this process and of course eventually the eggs run out – this is when the ovaries will then cease to make estrogen and a woman goes through the menopause.

There is no similar process with men. Men continue to make sperm and testosterone as they grow older, with only a very modest diminution in production rates as they age.

This is why today some women are having healthy eggs removed when they are younger and “freezing” them; just in case they want to become mothers after they have stopped producing their own eggs.

Many of us our generation really have minimal idea of what surrogacy means. Traditional surrogacy is when a woman agrees to carry a couple’s child and is fertilized artificially with the sperm from the male of the couple who want a child. Today full surrogacy is also common, when a donated egg from the woman is fertilized with the sperm from the intended father, and then inserted and “grown” in the womb of another, or surrogate, woman. This is where “frozen” eggs can be resurrected and used.

As the issue of older parents becomes more widespread, thre is increased interest in the long term problems that might arise. Health of course – Caroline will be in her 60s when she first takes little Grace to school. She will be well into her 70s when Grace makes it to high school .

How will Grace feel about having older parents?

But of course the increasing knowledge and medical skills means it is not just traditional parenting that we are looking at today. Recently Elton John, 68, and his husband 52 year old David Furnish, have had two sons by surrogacy.

Older parents and both parents being men – that was something we rarely came across when our generation was young!

What do you feel about older parents? Is it responsible to have a child over 50 – or even 60 – years of age? Is it fair on the child?

Let us know your thoughts at comments@laterlife.com

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