Postponing Motherhood and Relying on Fertility Treatments to Achieve Pregnancy
In general, women are choosing to have children later in life than they once did. Most well-known are female celebrities such as Madonna, Susan Sarandon, Marcia Cross, Helen Hunt, Geena Davis, and Halle Berry, all of whom became pregnant in their forties. Even more notable are Adriana Iliescu and Carmen Bousada de Lara, who both made headlines for giving birth at the age of 66. This trend, which allows women to focus on their careers and enjoy a leisurely lifestyle before committing to the demands of motherhood, has led many older women to rely on fertility treatments in order to conceive, sparking a heated public debate in the process.
I have a unique perspective on the issue because, though fertility treatments were not involved in my conception, my mom was 42 years old when I was born. Luckily, in my case, I had both my parents and four older siblings to help raise me, but I imagine that my mom would have had a difficult time if I had been her first child, especially if I had been born with health problems or a disability. The way I see it, starting a family at an older age puts both the mother and child at a disadvantage. It seems to me that every woman needs to decide what her priorities are and, if she can’t pursue her professional goals and be a mother simultaneously, she needs to decide whether she wants to make her mark in this world through a professional career or by raising a family. If she chooses to pursue a career first and start a family later, she must understand that if she waits too long, bearing her own children may not be an option.
Getting Pregnant Later in Life
It is easier for a woman to get pregnant before the age of 35 because she generally has a large quantity of high-quality eggs. However, as a woman ages, both the number and the quality of her eggs begin to decline, which leaves her with fewer chances to become pregnant. Thus, even if a woman is still menstruating in her forties, she may not be able to conceive a child without medical help. While there are fertility treatments that can help women to conceive even after menopause, getting pregnant later in life may not be in the best interest of a mother or her child.
According to the March of Dimes, women who achieve pregnancy after the age of 35 are generally at increased risk for high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and placenta previa (a condition in which the placenta covers the cervix). These women are also more likely to have a miscarriage or a baby born with chromosomal birth defects, such as Down syndrome. In addition, older women with fertility problems may need in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment in order to conceive. As a result, they often conceive more than one child, which increases the likelihood of premature birth(s). Premature birth can pose health risks including vision or hearing loss, cerebral palsy, lung disease, and gastrointestinal problems.
Older women who achieve pregnancy often put their own health, as well as the health of their child, at risk. Having an age restriction on fertility treatments could protect older women from high-risk pregnancy, and also help to prevent miscarriages, birth defects, and premature births.
Many women who conceive a child later in life do so by relying on fertility treatments. These treatments may involve screening out eggs with chromosomal abnormalities or using eggs donated from younger women. For older women to resort to fertility treatments because they are no longer able to conceive naturally is unethical. The demand for donor eggs is greater than the supply, and many women spend years on waiting lists before they can undergo treatment. Older women, who had their chance to start a family when they were younger but chose not to, are now on waiting lists for donor eggs, which is unfair to younger women whose priority is to start a family but need fertility treatment in order to do so. If fertility clinics had regulations in place, older women could be placed further down on the list, allowing younger women to receive treatments.
Other Things to Consider
In more extreme instances, such as those in which 66-year-old women are using fertility treatments to have children, it is important to question whether it is fair to the children for their mothers to conceive so late in life. Some women are very active in their sixties and seventies, but will they have the energy to keep up with an active toddler? What will happen to the child if the mother gets sick or passes away? It seems that some women who want to have children in their later years do so without really taking into account the quality of life that their child will have as a result.
In order to protect the welfare of older women and children, and to give younger women who have fertility problems an opportunity to start their families, there should be regulations for fertility treatment. Whether doctors are given guidelines to follow, or a strict age limit is put in place, there must be some criteria to determine who is eligible to receive fertility treatment.
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