BioethicsMon Mar 26, 2012 - 4:34 pm EST
Woman who became the UK’s oldest mom by IVF now admits it was a mistake
UK, March 26, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - Susan Tollefsen, who caused an uproar when she became Britain’s oldest first-time mother in 2008, now says achieving pregnancy at age 57 by IVF was a mistake, and is calling for all IVF clinics to set an age limit of 50.
Tollefsen, a retired teacher, became pregnant using sperm from her one-time partner Nick Mayer, who is 11 years her junior, and a donor egg. The media reported at the time that she and Mayer spent £15,000 on fertility treatment in Russia after they were refused by British clinics because of her age.
A daughter, Freya, was born by Caesarean section in March 2008. Tollefsen and Mayer are now separated due to what she told the media was the “shock” to their relationship of having a child so late in life.
Tollefsen, now 61, revealed to the Telegraph newspaper that during a serious illness over Christmas she was not able to care for 4-year-old Freya, and came to the realization that she might not live long enough to raise her child.
“I was so ill, I literally thought I was dying. I kept thinking about Freya - and for the first time, I realized I might not be there for her any more,” she said. “It’s so true that you learn from your mistakes, and my mistake was not having her sooner. If I’m completely honest, my experience has taught me that 50 should probably be the cut-off limit for having children.”
Tollefsen’s notoriety resulted in calls for the introduction of legislation to prevent post-menopausal women from receiving IVF treatment.
Currently the UK’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority only offers “guidelines” that state a cut-off at between 40 and 50 for IVF treatment, but note that the welfare of the child must be the first priority.
Michaela Aston of the pro-family group Life said achieving pregnancy by IVF in post-menopausal women was cause for grave concern.
“Whilst we understand that a woman of this age may want a child and we accept that science can help achieve it, that does not make it appropriate or right. Reason and unselfishness must be employed here,” Aston told the Telegraph when Tollefsen’s pregnancy became known.
“Mothers need energy and they need to be able to relate to their children and of course they need to be alive to care for them. Women of this age do not conceive naturally for a reason, we should be guided by mother nature on this,” she said.
Josephine Quintaville of the pro-life group Comment On Reproductive Ethics (http://corethics.org/) added, “It’s high time we joined other countries is Europe and established a national bioethics committee that could consider hugely important issues like this at a national level, rather than leaving them to the whims of local committees connected to the clinics themselves. It is important that the wishes of the general public are reflected and there is a clear opposition to fertility treatment in post-menopausal women.”
Quintavalle commended Tollefsen’s recent admission that IVF treatment at her age was a mistake.
“One has to admire her honesty in coming forward and speaking frankly about the difficulties about being a mother so old,” Quintavalle told the Daily Mail.
“One has to feel sorry for her, because she took advantage of something society offered her. But I think it shows that we need to have a bit more respect for nature, which seems to know how hard it is to look after a child when you are older. There is a very good reason the menopause comes when it does. IVF and egg-donating are creating a lot of unnatural situations.
“As a society, we have to start to look at all of these issues from the perspective of the child and ask what is best for them. The ideal situation for a child is to be with a mother and a father who are young and healthy enough to look after them.
“We can only hope that this acts as a warning to others who are in their later years and considering having a child,” Quintavalle said.
“I hope I live to see Freya go to university and get married and have a family of her own,” Tollefsen proffered. “That’s my only wish now.”
Dr. John Shea, the medical advisor to Canada’s Campaign Life Coalition, commented to LifeSiteNews that situations like the case of Tollefsen and her daughter are the result individuals, the medical profession, and the state, ignoring “the natural law, the moral law and God’s law.”
“In vetro fertilization is immoral in itself,” Dr. Shea said, “and when no attention is paid to the natural law, the moral law and God’s law, people run into all sorts of problems.”
“If individuals leave God, who actually creates life, out of the equation, then they believe they can do anything they like, and confusion and suffering, which they can’t escape, is the result,” Dr. Shea said.