A 60-year-old Calgary woman became the oldest Canadian to become a mum as she gave birth to twins on February 3, after receiving donor eggs from India.
Ranjit Hayer and her husband Jagir had been trying for four decades to conceive, and last year after she was refused treatment at Canadian fertility clinics because of her age, she travelled to India for help, reports Globeandmail.com.
AdvertisementDuring the pregnancy, Ranjit faced some complications, but was able to give birth to the boys by C-section at Calgary's Foothills Hospital, with her family reporting that mother and sons were doing well.
"Mother is fine and babies are fine," said Tony Hayer, who is Ranjit's nephew.
"After waiting so long, they are just overjoyed right now. It's part of Canadian history," he added.
The babies were born seven weeks prematurely, and the pregnancy is said to have caused the mother to suffer from hypertension, diabetes and potentially fatal haemorrhaging, with the birth of the babies now raising ethical questions.
The couple's obstetrician, Colin Birch, told CBC Radio's The Current that he is fully aware of the ethical criticisms the case presents.
"We can do so much, but the question is, should we do it just because we can do it," he said.
The birth and pregnancy has caused an ethical debate to arise, with the cut-off age for fertility treatments being 50 in Canada.
"Some of these cases tar and feather fertility clinics and the people seeking them out," said Cal Greene, medical director of the Calgary Foothills Regional Fertility Program.
"What we don't find acceptable in Canada may be quite acceptable in India. There is an industry of poor women there being paid a pittance to be egg donors.
"It's simply not as safe to have a baby in post-reproductive years as it would be to have a baby when nature intended it. Medically, it's very risky for both the mother and the babies," Greene, who cited high blood pressure, toxaemia and gestational diabetes as ailments that occur more often among older pregnant mothers, said.
Another reason Canadian fertility clinics erect barriers to women older than 50 is the potential of parents dying before their child fully matures.
"We don't consider it in the best interests of the child," Greene said.
A third ethical issue arises from Hayer's foreign treatments. While the procedure took place in India, the Canadian health-care system has cared for her ever since.
"It can be very expensive for the health-care system," said University of Manitoba ethics professor Arthur Shafer.
"If many women in their 60s want to give birth, you have to ask how that will burden the health-care system," he said.
Shafer, unlike some critics, rejects many of the arguments against post-menopausal pregnancy.
"Is it wise, prudent or optimal? Probably not," he said.
"But in this country we let competent adults make procreative decisions for themselves," he added.