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Health: Enter the 40-plus super mum

Aided by advances in medical science and determined to strike a work-life balance, the urban Indian woman isn't afraid to conceive at 40

A week ago, 40-year-old TV celebrity Raageshwari Loomba was in the news after she declared her pregnancy. With this, she joined the likes of Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Eva Mendes and Celine Dion, all of who have been pregnant after touching 40. Back home, Shilpa Shetty's late pregnancy at 38 had got some attention too. But gynecologists tell us that it is now too commonplace to be surprised.

Halle Berry was four months pregnant when she was posing for the  photocall of Things We Lost in the Fire,  26 October 2007. She was 46 at the time. Pic courtesy/ AFP
Halle Berry was four months pregnant when she was posing for the  photocall of Things We Lost in the Fire,
26 October 2007. She was 46 at the time. Pic courtesy/ AFP

In fact, with the progress in modern medicine to treat infertility, remarriages and demanding careers in the urban centres, pregnancies above 40 have as much as doubled in the last five years, informs Dr Kunjal Bathija, who practises at Bombay Hospital & Medical Research Centre in Marine Lines. "There are several cases of very late (over 50 years) successful pregnancies now. With the right kind of care and counselling it is not unachievable," she affirms.

Nicole Kidman in 2008, pregnant at 42. Pic/AFP
Nicole Kidman in 2008, pregnant at 42. Pic/AFP

Age no bar
Her words find support in Pramila and Pramod Desai of Goa. The Desais had lost their only child who was 25-years-old and after a period of grief and loneliness they decided to have another child. Pramila Desai was 52 then, and they approached Dr Amol Lunkad in Pune, who is the chief in vitro fertilisation (IVF) specialist at Indira IVF, Pune. In this process of fertilisation the egg and sperm are manually combined in a laboratory dish, and then the embryo is transferred to the uterus. "There have been no complications till now and the baby is five-months old. One should never lose hope," Pramod Desai says.

Salma Hayek in June 2007,  pregnant at 40. Pic/ Afp
Salma Hayek in June 2007, pregnant at 40. Pic/ AFP

Dr Lunkad informs that he treats several such patients every year from all over the country. In the previous year, he handled over 200 cases of women, who over 45 and wanted a child. "We have helped many menopausal women give birth. However, treating infertility at later age is a super specialty field and often, the patients are misguided. For example, a lot of doctors are unaware that pregnancy is possible post menopause," he says. But this is changing now, and the first pregnancy after 30 is increasingly becoming the norm with the second after 40, according to Dr Mugdha Raut, who is the managing director of Raut's Women's Hospital in Santacruz (E). "There are many reasons but mostly late marriages, remarriages or demanding jobs," she says.

A word of caution
She, however, clarifies that the fears pertaining to very late pregnancies are not entirely unfounded. "There can be complications like pregnancy related diabetes, thyroid or blood pressure and the mother would need intense monitoring and care," she says.

Dr Lunkad says that like any pregnancy, one can never be completely sure about its success. But the process of fertilisation in case of infertility or menopause is completely safe. It is during childbirth that complications happen. "Achieving fertility is very different from pregnancy care," he says. The doctors also informed that a lot of women who wanted to be single mothers after 40 had approached them and given birth aided by a donor. Dr Bathija recounts a case where a Mumbai-based patient Shilpa Das (name changed), who was 41-years-old had lost her husband. "She wanted a child and was fine with a donor of good quality."

New age mother
Though many are taking advantage of the advances of medical science in this field there are superstitions and irrational beliefs stopping some. According to Dr Lunkad some people still consider assisted pregnancies and sperm donations immoral. "It is a taboo in some communities. And some people consider it immoral," he says. But as things stand, 40 seems to be the new 20 or 30 for mothers to be.

Their story

Shilpa Das (name changed),
41, Mumbai
She had lost her husband in her 30s. She did not wish to remarry but wanted a child. For this she was willing to opt to use donor sperm of good quality. She now has a boy at 42 after a safe and smooth pregnancy.

Pramila Desai,
52, Goa
Had lost her child from cancer. A close relative counseled her and her husband Pramod Desai about trying for pregnancy. She got pregnant aided by hormonal therapy. Her diabetes was controlled with insulin throughout her pregnancy and she delivered a baby of 2.7 kg by caesarean method

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