Science » Technologies and discoveries
Author`s name Ольга Савка

Late motherhood and test-tube babies harm future generations

When a 35 or 40-year-old woman decides to deliver her first baby with the help of IVF, she does not even realize that she harms her own baby genetically

A lot of popular glossy magazines for women have developed a fondness for the subject of baby-boom among celebrities over 35. As a rule, such articles emphasize how wonderful it is to experience the joy of motherhood at the time when a woman has accomplished everything that she wanted in her life. They write that it will not be hard for a 40-year-old mother to maintain her baby and she will always have something to do.

The late childbirth trend has become conspicuous and even popular in both Russia and abroad. Pop star Madonna gave birth to her second child at age 42, Liz Hurley became a mother for the first time in her life when she was 36 years old. The list goes on with 40-year-old Emma Thompson, etc.

Magazine articles about late motherhood usually disregard the medical side of the issue. As a rule, it is represented as follows: “Once a woman decides to have a baby at such a respectable age, she will definitely do her best to conceive, bear and deliver it normally.” This affirmation seems to be correct from the point of view of women's wishes. However, human wishes may not always coincide with physical possibilities.

Modern medicine has done a lot recently to expand the opportunities of women's fertility. Louise Brown became the first human baby to be born from the in vitro fertilization procedure on July 25, 1978. The birth of the first test-tube baby marked the start of the new era in reproductive medicine. Extracorporal fertilization allowed women to brush aside age limits in their maternal wishes. A Romanian pensioner, Adriana Iliescu, had her child at age 66, for instance.

It goes without saying that medicine does not have the absolute power. Humans are still unable to change something drastically when they interfere in the laws of the natural world. Doctors transplanted two embryos in the body of the Romanian woman, and the would-be mother started bearing twins. One of the babies died during the seventh month of pregnancy: doctors had to perform Cesarean section on the woman urgently to save both the mother and her daughter. The operation was successful: Adriana Iliescu, who used to be a university professor, thinks about having another baby. The woman's idea may not come true: Romania and other EU states enacted a new law in the beginning of the current year, which limits women's age in IVF procedures to 50 years old.

Medical specialists differ in their opinions about late childbirth after in vitro fertilization. Nature designed a woman to bear and deliver human descendants, which brings up the ideas that it is an absolutely natural and normal process for a female body. However, scientists discovered later that women had their own physical peculiarities too. One of them touches upon the optimal age for maternity. British specialists concluded as a result on an extensive research work that the ultimate childbearing age for women was between 20 and 35 years. Susan Bewley, an expert from the British National Healthcare Service, believes that late motherhood after IVF contradicts to natural laws. Bewley is certain that the current increasing number of occurrences when women over 35 become mothers is connected with the successful practice of artificial fertilization to treat infertility. In addition, late mothers have to deal with a whole bouquet of problems connected with conceiving, bearing and delivering a healthy baby and leaving their own health unharmed.

It is an open secret that the rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the world has been growing steadily during the recent years. Such diseases may often result in rather unpleasant complications for women: inflammatory processes in uterine appendages, which may eventually block uterine tubes or damage their motility because of numerous adhesions as a woman ages. Endometriosis is also a serious problem, which troubles women in their thirties and forties. To crown it all, excessive weight that adult woman usually gain also exerts a negative influence on the childbearing capacity.

An IVF procedure is unable to solve all of the above-mentioned problems. In addition, age affects the quality of male sperm rather negatively too. Weak spermatozoa simply do not reach their goal under natural conditions. However, they do have a chance to deliver their “genetic garbage” instead of the genetic material to an ovule under laboratory conditions. Genetic research is still rather expensive, and common patients will not be willing for pay for it before every IVF procedure. Doctors simply analyze only the outward appearance of cells.

So-called “young elderly mothers” have to bear in mind another problem: various chronic diseases may intensify during pregnancy and pose a serious danger to woman's health. Needless to say that taking medications on a daily basis is not a good factor to accompany pregnancy even if instructions say that a medicine is fetus-friendly.

From the point of view of demography a woman decides to delay her motherhood and pay most of her attention to her career and financial well-being. Consequently, children born from such mothers take a worse position in the competition with children born from younger mothers in terms of health and genetic potential.

The above-mentioned reasons do not mean, of course, that late motherhood should be legally banned. One should have a different approach to the problem. Women have achieved equal rights with men: now they have to work hard all day long to prove their professional aptitude and receive good money. Furthermore, labor legislations in many countries of the globe has a rather cool attitude to working mothers. Therefore, women have to choose whether they want to stay at home and take care of their children or go out and work and save maternal plans for later. Unfortunately, a lot of women choose the second option.

This problem has become highly important not only in Western states, but in Russia as well. A young generation of Russians follows the Western lifestyle and tries to adopt its system of values. However, specific Russian peculiarities make the choice extremely difficult.

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