How far would you go to prove your love and devotion to your child? For a 61-year-old mother, she’d do anything – even act as a surrogate and give birth to her own grandson. This strange tale of modern medicine may give you the creeps, or you might find it a sweet tale of maternal love.
Last Wednesday, Kristine Casey, a 61-year-old woman who went through menopause a decade ago, may have become the oldest woman in Illinois history to give birth, according to the Chicago Tribune. Kristine Casey served as a surrogate for her 35-year-old daughter, Sara Connell.
(The newspaper reports the oldest woman on record to give birth was 58 years old, but that was in 2006. Data on births after 2008 aren’t available yet.)
Sara Connell has been trying to have a baby since 2004. When she discovered she wasn’t ovulating, she underwent infertility treatment and got pregnant with twins. Unfortunately, her twins were delivered stillborn. Another attempt later ended with a miscarriage. The Connells had considered adoption, but desperately wanted a biological child of their own.
Kristine Casey, Sara’s mother, offered to serve as surrogate. A few months later, the family discussed the idea with doctors. Kristine had to undergo a variety of tests to evaluate her medical health as well as mental well-being, which is required by Illinois law.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the risk of genetic abnormalities was low in this unique surrogacy situation, because it was Sara’s egg that would be fertilized. The family had agreed that the pregnancy would be carried to term even if genetic problems were detected.
Kristine had to take hormones to prepare her uterus for the pregnancy. Hormones help the uterus act like a young uterus, doctors said. After two cycles of in vitro fertilization with embryo transfer (her daughter’s egg, her son-in-law’s sperm), the 61-year-old woman got pregnant.
The pregnancy went smoothly, and Kristine delivered her first grandson via C-section last week. The little boy is named Finnean Lee Connell.
Older women face more health risks and complications during pregnancy and the delivery process, including diabetes high blood pressure, and premature delivery, and fetal death. One of the biggest health issues with an older surrogate is the health of her heart. A woman’s heart has to work harder in pregnancy. Your blood volume increases between 30 to 50 percent to nourish the developing baby, and the amount of blood the heart pumps also increases. If a woman’s heart isn’t healthy, this can put her life at risk.
Though caesarean deliveries are more commonplace today – it’s estimated that over 30 percent of all deliveries are via C-section – they are still a major abdominal surgery and come with more risks than a vaginal delivery. Risks from c-sections include infection, excessive bleeding and blood clots, more postpartum pain, a longer hospital stay, and a longer recovery stay.
Fortunately, in this case, everything went smoothly. Both grandson and grandmother are healthy. Kristine did experience a kidney complication after her C-section, but it was resolved without much problem.
This isn’t the first case of a post-menopausal women giving birth. Birth rates among older women have risen in recent years due to the use of in vitro fertilization and assisted reproductive technologies. In 2008, an Indian woman named Rajo Devi Lohan gave birth with the help of IVF at the age of 70. Only 18 months later, it was reported she never recovered from complications from her IVF pregnancy, and her health had deteriorated to the point she could no longer care for her toddler. Lohan is considered the world’s oldest mother.
In Kristine Casey’s case, she only served as surrogate. Once she recovers, she will take on the grandmother role. However, the ethical questions still remain.
How old is too old to have a pregnancy? Do you think it’s ethical to allow a post-menopausal woman to serve as a surrogate? What are your thoughts on a grandmother giving birth to her own grandson? Do you find it weird, or an act of love in today’s advanced medical world?