LONDON, May 18, 2009 — -- She's a 66-year-old successful career woman about to become a first-time mom. Elizabeth Adeney, now eight months pregnant, will be one of the oldest new mothers in the world.
Chatter on the Internet ranges from wonder at the miracle to harsh criticism, with one post calling Adeney's decision to have in vitro fertilization an example of "breathtaking selfishness." When she's 85 years old, her child will still be a teenager.
But Adeney, who lives near Lidgate, Suffolk, in southeastern England, reportedly said that to be a mother, all that matters is how old you feel on the inside. And she claimed she is young and fit and feels like she is 39 years old.
Most IVF clinics in Britain (and the United States) don't offer treatment to women older than 50, so Adeney flew to Ukraine, where there is no age limit on IVF, becoming one of the so-called "fertility tourists."
Dr. Jamie Grifo at the New York University Fertility Center told ABC News that although "pregnancy has risks associated with it at any age … the older the woman, the greater the risks."
Older women who get pregnant could have trouble with "high blood pressure, which can complicate placental development. They can develop diabetes in pregnancy, which has to be monitored. Preterm labor is an issue in the older patient and of course, Caesarian delivery and the associated surgical risks."
But, Grifo added, these risks are "very treatable, so as long as an older woman has a healthy heart, their outcome for pregnancy is very good."
In 2004 New Yorker Aleta St. James became the oldest American woman to give birth when she had twins. She was nearly 57. A year later, a 66 year-old Romanian woman became the world's oldest mom. Then, in 2006, Carmela Bousada of Spain, who was nearly 67, took the title.
And last year, Omkari Panwar from India stole her crown. Desperate for a male heir, she underwent IVF at age 70. She got her wish when she gave birth to twins, one of them a boy.
According to Grifo, "There haven't been that many women over the age of 50 who have attempted pregnancy and now that the technology exists more are doing so."
But should they be allowed to? Grifo told ABC News that "We don't tell a 14-year-old unmarried woman she's not allowed to have a child. Why should we tell a 66-year-old woman who is healthy and wants to have a baby that she can't. Who's to say?"
Older Mothers 'Not a Common Problem'
Adeney said what she's doing is between her, her baby and no one else.
"The good news is," Grifo said, "it's not a common problem … in the world there's probably only five women over the age of 55 who have done this. I don't think this needs to be a great debate among regulators."