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Yesterday, AARP broadcast a long awaited program on “Inside E-Street” for PBS television, titled “Babies @50”.

Lynn Laszewski—from our “A Child After 40” online community—who had her son at 51, kicks off the program with her story. After Laszewski, I was interviewed on controversial social issues, including maternal ageism, and the rising need for FPM’s continued advocacy for later life mothers. To watch the video, click here (http://www NULL.aarp NULL.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-01-2012/babies-after-age-50-inside-estreet NULL.html). Click here for info on A Child After 40 (http://www NULL.achildafter40 NULL.com/a-child-after-40-online/).

We were followed by a debate between Elizabeth Gregory, Director of the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Houston, and author of Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood and Bonnie Steinbock, professor and medical ethicist at the University of Albany.

An over-40 mom herself, Gregory came out in support, quoting figures on the rise of later motherhood—in the 1970’s, 1 in 100 women gave birth over 35, compared to today’s figure of 1 in12. She focused on the amount of preparation later mothers tend to put into child bearing.

Steinbock voiced serious doubts about long-term health and ability to cope with teens. She had several key concerns, and one of the most significant was the use of reproductive technology by fertility doctors to aid menopausal women in becoming mothers.

Steinbock advocated for informed decision-making between parents and doctors. However, she also mentioned Carmen Bousada de Lara as the oldest mother on record–information which is now dated. (For more on “world’s oldest mothers”, see “Elephant Mom”.)

Steinbock’s talk on the gender-based double standard for parental age would have been better supported with a mention of the health risks faced by children who come from older men’s sperm.  This would have further emphasized the irrational foundation for the maternal age bias. (Click here for “Legislating Larry”, a blog on medical research, and “Our Dirty Double Standard” (http://www NULL.doctoroz NULL.com/videos/why-are-we-against-later-motherhood?page=4#copy) on Dr. Oz.)

“Menopausal motherhood”—meaning women who have reached menopause and still wish to become mothers—is today’s hotbed of debate and is likely to continue in a snarl of ethical as well as moral issues. Yet, some experts argue that menopause is “evolutionary relic” and outdated in modern childbearing. This is covered in more detail in “Do You Look This Old at 50?” and in Lisa Miller’s now notorious New York Magazine piece (http://nymag NULL.com/news/features/mothers-over-50-2011-10/).

According to Laszewski, who was disappointed by the negativity against later mothers in the recent debate on Dr. Oz, the Inside E-Street (http://www NULL.aarp NULL.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-01-2012/babies-after-age-50-inside-estreet NULL.html) program was a step in the right direction.

“I was very pleased to see that Lark and the two professors did a nice job of presenting the issue rationally and realistically”, she says.

“All in all, I think it is the first rational explanation I’ve seen of the issue”, concluded Laszewski.

Notes for this blog:

AARP’s Inside E-Street program, aired on PBS: http://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-01-2012/babies-after-age-50-inside-estreet.html (http://www NULL.aarp NULL.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-01-2012/babies-after-age-50-inside-estreet NULL.html)

4 Responses to AARP Airs Age Debate on PBS TV, With ACHILDAFTER40.COM Founder

  1. Christina says:

    I thought it was very fair and balanced. Even though I feel I have finally made some peace with being an older (adoptive) mom, reading some of the comments and hearing some of what they did talk about on the video still cut like a knife. Even I am affected by society’s bias. When we adopted at 48 I felt “okay” but as soon as I hit 50, I let all the criticism get to me. Now I realize I do not give a flying fig what anyone on this earth thinks, only what God thinks. BUT that said, it is still hard to hear the horrible things that people say about older moms.

  2. Christina says:

    With all the horrid things that can be perpetrated upon children in this world, a child born to or adopted by an older woman, a child that is wanted terribly and loved so much…is the last thing people should care about.

    Let’s think about this one… a child trafficked (abused) for any number of reasons on one hand, a child with a loving gray-haired mother on the other hand. Hmmm….

    Basically it is no one’s business what anyone does with their own life. Life is short. Live it fully.

  3. Elle says:

    I am 45 and became pg naturally, without planning it. Everyone has been totally supportive. Except for one person: my perinatologist. At the 20-week ultrasound, he gave me a long lecture about the age of my eggs, and I had to listen to some frightening statistics about chromosomal abnormalities.
    I feel ready for a baby emotionally, but I was not prepared for the level of fear that the ultrasound generated (even though it did not show any of the seven signs of Downs, the Dr. would not rule that out).
    I think in the current trend toward older mothers, doctors should be receiving training on how to be less scientific and more supportive. The baby I have is the baby I will love, but having an appointment that leaves me stressed and sleepless cannot be helpful in any way.

  4. Lisa says:

    I am glad that someone is advocating for older moms. My mother drummed into me the message, “Don’t do what I did. Don’t just have children. Have a career first.” My mom did not have economic independence and thus could not leave a marriage that, sadly, was abusive. (I love my Dad but I wouldn’t want anyone I care about to have to be married to him.) So with my parents’ support I got a “useless” degree in Studio Art (a subject I loved) then slowly, painfully, found my way to a career as a television editor (a very competitive field, so mine was a long, slow climb.) Blessedly my field was also unionized, so was well-paid with GREAT health benefits.

    My husband and I started ttc when I was age 35 and after one year conceived naturally only to suffer a fetal demise at the end of the first trimester. We were told that such losses are “always chromosomal” and that it was MY fault for having waited so long. In fact, the female doctor was cold and rude about it. “Let me read you the facts,” she said. “One in three pregnancies ends in miscarriage and the odds go up after the age of 35.” She advised moving on to fertility treatments, which we did. They did not work but I got pregnant again (naturally) two more times and each time lost the pregnancies after two good ultrasounds with a heart beat. The experts said, “It’s your age, your eggs, move on to donor egg IVF.” I did not believe that chromosomal issues were the cause (even had a fetal tissue analysis performed which came back “XX Normal,”) but at 41 had enough of loss (the odds of genetic abnormalities really do shoot up after the age of forty) so decided to take the plunge to DE (donor egg).

    Since DE was a strange concept/strange path, I started my own support group for women ttc thru DE and at the first meeting looked around the room, saw all these attractive, bright, professionally successful women and for the first time, realized, “I’m not a loser! In fact, I’m in good company.” (I thank those women for getting me through the long, hard process of finding a donor and cycling successfully.)

    Simultaneously I sought the help of a therapist and she recommended that I consult a reproductive immunologist who recommended that I have immunological and placental function tests done. I took this long list of expensive (not covered by insurance) tests to my reputable RE (in whose care I’d lost two pregnancies) and asked his opinion on which ones to have run. He said, “NK (naturall killer cell) count, APA and ANA.” So I had those tests run thru an outside, independent lab and came up positive for APA with elevated NK activity. He said that based on these results I should inject lovenox, a blood thinner, for the duration of a pregnancy and also take low dose prednisone orally during the first trimester to suppress my immune system. So with my DE IVF (eset blastocyst transfer) I did both. I had a blissful, uneventful pregnancy and then TWO DAYS after ceasing lovenox at my OB’s instruction (1 week before the scheduled c-section) I came down with the worst class of HELLP Syndrome (an extreme form of eclampsia) that gave me a stroke, put me in a coma and ruptured my liver. At one point the hospital sent a grief counsellor to my husband to tell him to prepare for my death.

    “That is not an option,” he says he told them. (God bless him.)

    After three weeks (with his constant presence at my side, reading to me, talking to me, “keeping the staff busy in your vicinity” as he put it) I emerged from coma, and there the long road back from brain injury began. (the “road” involved a year of cognitive, occupational, and physical therapies, covered by insurance. Sadly I will probably never recover memories from the first six months of my daughter’s life. However, I am so blessed to be alive at all and my working (short term) memory improves on a daily basis. I am also slowly being weaned off of the anti-seizure meds that contribute to sleepiness and ironically impair some of my mental function.

    My daughter is the light of my life but I wouldn’t wish what my family and I endured on my worst enemy. BTW we had investigated domestic adoption but a local agency that came recommended by a friend told us that 90% of their birth mothers had drug and alcohol addiction issues. I wasn’t brave enough to deal with the prospect of supporting a birth mom who would deliver a drug or alcohol damaged baby or who might change her mind and take the baby back (something that had happened to two work-friends as well as a therapist I consulted) So DE IVF was our chosen path.

    My daughter is the light of my life and I am doing everything I can (eating right, exercising, etc) to make sure that I will be here for her as long as possible. I wish, however, that there were more societal support for older moms as well as actual, real financial support for families in general. I find it “interesting” that in a society which says it favors “family values” we don’t support actual (real) families. What is THAT about?

    I also notice that people tend to react to stories about older moms with hostility. There is still a lot of misogyny out there. I wish that people understood that infertility is an illness, much like cancer, and that it isn’t always due to life choices. Sometimes it is due to genetics. HELLP Syndrome, the thing that struck me, has a male and a female genetic component. Something from me and from my husband combined to make pregnancy almost fatal for me. HELLP also strikes younger women and women who have had successful first pregnancies but who remarry and try to have a child with the second husband (thus showing the male genetic component.)

    I am an ardent feminist but I also feel that the feminist movement let society down by not educating us better about the limits of women’s reproductive capacities and also by not winning better financial/medical support for people who choose to become parents.

    Sorry for the long diatribe. Best of luck to all.

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