Birth after 50? Israeli researchers say bring on the baby

A pregnant woman (photo credit: REUTERS)
A pregnant woman
(photo credit: REUTERS)

Research by Israeli scientists determines that it is possible to give birth after the age of 50 without endangering the mother or the baby.

The study, conducted by a group of doctors and researchers from Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba and Ben-Gurion University, examined the possible pregnancy complications for women over the age of 50 and whether mothers who have babies at this age put themselves or their fetuses at increased risk in comparison to younger mothers.

The researchers found that while until a few decades ago, giving birth at a later age seemed unfathomable, thanks to medical and technological advances – including extracellular fertilization and egg donation – the age at which a woman can give birth has gradually increased.

In an article published by the Hebrew website Ynet, data from the Health Ministry shows that in 2017, about 1,300 women aged 45 and over gave birth, some of whom were even over 50. This compares to 950 women four years earlier.

During the study, the researchers examined the outcomes of pregnancy among 68 women aged 50 and older who gave birth in recent years. The study found that about half gave birth through fertilization and some, surprisingly, got pregnant in a natural way.

They compared the pregnancies and births of 558 women ages 45 to 50, to 7,321 women who gave birth between the ages of 40 and 44, to 240,000 women who gave birth under the age of 40.

The research specifically tried to see if these women were prone to complications like gestational diabetes, pregnancy hypertension, premature births and caesarean sections. It was also examined if the newborn suffered from complications such as low epigraph scores, indicating poor physical condition, distress during labor and even mortality.

The researchers concluded that all complications (maternal and fetal) were higher among women who gave birth to children over the age of 40, compared with those who gave birth below that age. Surprisingly, however, there was no escalation of complications in women over the age of 50, compared with women who gave birth between the ages of 40 and 50.

Ynet interviewed one of the lead researchers, Prof. Eyal Shiner, who said there “is no doubt that medical teams are going to see more and more births to women over the age of 50.” He noted that it is still advisable to treat the pregnancies of women over the age of 40 as high-risk, and even more so, the pregnancies of women over 50.

“But it turns out that the risk is not much higher as the woman gets older,” he said.