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Ethical debate over 62-year-old new mum

AAP logoAAP 2/08/2016 By Sarah Wiedersehn and Melissa Meehan

The arrival of a baby girl born to a 62-year-old woman and 78-year-old man in a Melbourne hospital has sparked a nationwide debate, with the head of the Australian Medical Association labelling it "madness".

At 62, a Tasmanian woman became Australia's oldest first time mum, taking over from a woman who gave birth at age 60 in 2010.

Australian IVF pioneer Gab Kovacs from Monash University has labelled the procedure irresponsible, while doctors have warned about the serious health risks.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said the couple's decision to have a child at their advanced age was "selfish" and wrong.

"Madness. Not designed to have kids in 60s," Dr Gannon tweeted.

The woman gave birth at 34 weeks via a caesarean at Frances Perry Private Hospital on August 1.

The hospital on Wednesday said mother and baby were recuperating and has requested privacy for the family.

Risks associated with pregnancy can increase significantly after a woman reaches her 40s.

Those risks include high blood pressure, birth complications and compromised foetal development.

"A pregnancy at the age of 62 is a very risky business indeed, " said Professor Peter Illingworth from IVF Australia.

Specialists at IVF Australia generally won't help a woman have a baby beyond the age of natural menopause, which is 51, because of the health risks to the mother.

However they would not rule it out completely.

"We would take each case on a case-by-case basis and refer it to our ethics committee. They would be concerned about the health of the mother and the welfare of the child afterwards."

It's believed the Tasmanian woman had undergone several years of failed IVF procedures and was implanted with a fertilised donor embryo at a facility overseas.

Dr Bernadette Richards, an expert in medical law and bioethics from the University of Adelaide, says what the couple has done is not illegal.

But just because medical intervention enables a 62-year-old woman to become pregnant doesn't mean it should be allowed if it isn't in the best interest of the child, with many asking how old is too old to have a child.

"The driving principal of our laws is always the best interest of the child, so I guess people would challenge what she's done upon the grounds it may not arguably be in the best interests in the child to have parents of that age," said Dr Richards.

There are now calls for clearer guidelines when it comes to providing fertility treatment to older parents, with things like life expectancy to be considered.

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