How Old is Too Old to be Pregnant

Infertility treatment and donor eggs now makes it possible for women in their late 40s, 50s, and even 60s to be pregnant. How old is too old for a woman to successfully and safely be pregnant? Host Dawn Davenport, Exec. Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Dr. Jeff Ecker, a high risk obstetrician at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and an Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School; Dr. Julianne Zweifel, a psychologist and professor in the department of Obstetrics & Gynecology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health; and Dr. Linda Applegarth, the Director of Psychological Services at the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility.

Hit the Highlights
  • What are the medical risks for women over 40 carry a pregnancy to term and giving birth?
  • Are there additional medical risks for women in their 40s and 50s being pregnant?
  • The chances of conceiving naturally or with IVF go down tremendously as a woman ages into her 40s. How do the chances improve if she uses a donor egg or donor embryo in the process?”
  • Do the medical risks change is the pregnancy is achieved with donor egg, which of course is the majority of pregnancies through assisted reproduction when women are in their 40s. Are there additional risks from donor egg pregnancies?
  • Are their greater medical risk for mother and babies when a women is carrying twins and is over 40 or 45?
  • Do you think that women over the age of 45 be mandated to single embryo transfer if they do attempt a pregnancy?
  • How manageable are the health risks to an older mother and her child/children, if they are anticipated in advance?
  • How much do the risk increase as a woman ages?
  • What are the medical risk for a child conceived through sperm of an older father?
  • How common is pregnancy through fertility treatment in woman over the age of 45?
  • It is also possible to adopt in your 40s and 50s. What types of adoption are open to people over 40 or 45 or 50 or 55?
  • Can you adopt domestically a newborn if you are in your 40s or 50s?
  • Can you adopt internationally if you are in your 40s or 50s?
  • Can you adopt from US foster care if you are an older parent?
  • Other than medical risks, what other things should older parents consider before becoming a new parent at 43 or 48 or 53?
  • Is it fair to children to be conceived or adopted by older parents?
  • What are some of the positives about being an older parent?
  • What are some of the negatives about being an older parent?
  • Is the issue the quality of parenting or the possibility of orphaning your kids at a relatively young age or putting the burden of care of elderly parents on a young person. Any research on the quality of parenting?
  • Is there a different ethical discussion involved in adopting at an older age if the child would not have had parents otherwise (e.g., international adoption) or have been given life in the first place (e.g., embryo donation / adoption)?
  • It seems that most discussions about older parents focus on the mother’s age rather than the fathers. In fact, some countries, notably Russia seldom care much about the father’s age. Are there any issues that are gender specific—in other words a bigger deal for mothers of fathers?
  • What are some things older parents should do and prepare for to protect their children?

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Image credit: Nicholas Erwin

Show originally aired in 2011.