Performer Mary Coustas is a guest this week on Insight as the show explores the trend of older parenthood and asks “is it better late than never?”
A 62 year old Tasmanian woman recently became Australia’s oldest new mother by giving birth to a baby girl after becoming pregnant with the help of IVF. It’s her first child and her partner is 78 years old. The AMA president Dr Michael Gannon labelled the decision as “madness”, “selfish” and “wrong”.
His comments raise the question – how old is too old to have a baby? And just because IVF technology has created more opportunities to have a baby later in life, should we?
While Australia’s overall birth rate continues to fall, older mothers are bucking the trend. The fertility rate for mothers aged 45-49 doubled between 2004-2014.
More older couples are turning to donor eggs and embryos to have babies into their late 40s, 50 and 60s despite the risks of older pregnancies.
So what are the age limits and who’s setting them? What are the societal costs? And what about the rights of the child to have a parent who’s around to see them through to adulthood?
Insight speaks to older mothers like comedian Mary Coustas who became a mother via IVF at 49, older fathers like Kevin King who became a dad again at 70 and the children of older parents like Ozzie Colley whose father was 92 at the time of his birth.
Anthea Nicholas (55) – Australia’s oldest known natural first-time mother. Conceived naturally and had the baby at 50. She says there are no grandparents or extended family so she is anxious about Nicky’s lack of support if anything happened to her or her husband Peter Byrnes (59).
Kevin King(76) – Dad at 70. Oldest known dad in Tasmania. Kevin has a six year old son Pierre with German wife Katja King (37), conceived naturally. Kevin has had a number of heart attacks and a serious back injury. Kevin hopes to be around for another 5-10 years. Son Pierre is conscious of his dad’s age as he’s seen him carried off in an ambulance a number of times.
Steve Bedwell (52) – The comedian author and former radio and TV personality was surprised to become a dad again at 49. The natural conception was a surprise after previously struggling to have a child via IVF. Steve feels self-conscious about being an old man with baby seat in car. He recently had shoulder and knee reconstruction to try and get himself fit enough to keep up with young dads at school.
Margaret Cannington (36) – Father was 53 when she was born and her mum was 25 years younger than her dad. Margaret’s father passed away from leukaemia when she was 17. She is strongly against older parents because of the anxiety they cause for the child. But there were many positives, such as her father having a good sense of himself and a lot of time and patience for her.
Eugenie Levine (27) – Dad was 50 when she was born. He got early onset dementia when she was 10. She says it was like having a grandfather in the house and that she hated having an old parent. Eugenie planned to have kids early and had her first child at 24 so history would not repeat. Her partner is twenty years older than her.
Ozzie Colley (25) – Son of the world’s oldest known father Les Colley, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Les was 92 when Ozzie was born and died at 99. Ozzie became a dad himself at 24, some 68 years earlier than the age his father had him.
Max Delmege (71) and Sam Delmege (32) – Former owner of the Manly Sea Eagles (2002-2010) Max Delmege is trying to have a baby through IVF with his 32 year old wife Samantha. Max says he will be a great dad at 71 with more patience and will not be rushing around trying to start a business like he was when he had his first two boys. Max, who is also a grandfather, says he can financially support a new child even after he has gone and he has a young wife and lots of extended family that can support her. Samantha says that she won’t change her plans of having a baby because she has married an older man.
Dr Gino Pecoraro, Obstetrician/Gynaecologist – Gino says legislation hasn’t kept up with science in regards to older parents and that we need a public debate on this issue – a white paper on reproduction cut-offs. Gino says older parents are costing society. He says older pregnancies are a high risk for mother and child and speaks in schools to encourage young girls to think about having children earlier rather than later.
8:30pm Tuesday September 20 on SBS.