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Having a baby over 60 risky, doctors warn

AAP logoAAP 3/08/2016 Sarah Wiedersehn

Having a baby over the age of 60 is risky business, doctors warn.

Professor Peter Illingworth from IVF Australia says they 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.

The question of how old is too old to have a baby is back in the spotlight after news a 62-year-old woman from Tasmania has given birth to a baby.

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

The woman, who's not been named, is believed to have been implanted with a fertilised donor embryo at a facility overseas.

Australian IVF pioneer Gab Kovacs from Monash University has labelled the procedure irresponsible.

Prof Illingworth agrees the mother put her health at great risk and says she's fortunate to have come through it safely.

"A pregnancy at the age of 62 is a very risk business indeed, with a very high risk of serious complications such as blood clots and blood pressure problems," he said.

He says it would be very unlikely that IVF Australia would provide fertility treatment to a woman once she had reached her 52nd birthday.

That said, 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."

Prof Illingworth also noted that he had never heard of a woman receiving a donated embryo beyond the age of 50 in Australia.

The other major ethical issue this case highlights is the welfare of the child and a need for clearer guidelines on this, says Professor Sheryl de Lacey from Flinders University.

Prof de Lacey, who specialises in infertility and bioethics, says responsible fertility care does not just rest on the age of the mother alone but on issues regarding the child's welfare.

"People these days are older, they're fitter, they're more healthy, they may be better off in terms of parenting than someone who's 16 or 18," Prof de Lacey said.

"We are stretching the boundaries in technology in a lot of different ways so I don't know that we can really claim that there's a natural limit to things these days. Otherwise why would we treat cancer?" she said.

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