An Indian woman may be the world's oldest to give birth after delivering her first child at the age of 70, her doctor says.
Jivunben Rabari and her husband Valjibhai Rabari, 75, from Kutch in western Gujarat state, welcomed their first child – a son named Lalo – delivered by Caesarean section last month.
The couple, who have been married for 45 years, had been unsuccessfully trying for a baby for decades before conceiving their first child through In-Vitro Fertilisation.
They approached Dr Naresh Bhanushali, who runs the Harsh IVF Centre in Bhuj, after learning about the procedure through relatives.
“Her blood pressure was high and we had to deliver the child via C-section in the eighth month of the gestation period,” Dr Bhanushali told The National.
“We had a team of doctors including a cardiologist, a physician on standby … anything could have gone wrong because of her age but she was fine and gave birth to a healthy baby."
The current world record holder for the oldest woman to give birth belongs to Maria del Carmen Bousada Lara whose twin boys were delivered by Caesarean section when she was 66 years, 358 days old, in Spain. It is not clear if Jivunben Rabari will seek official entry into the Guinness World Record books and her age has not been independently verified.
The doctor said he was surprised by the elderly woman when she first visited him and even advised her for months not to undergo the IVF process before giving in to her request.
“They first came to my clinic a year and a half ago. I was shocked when she said she wanted to have a baby. We kept telling her it is dangerous because of her age, and even counselled her for three months. She said she is 70."
“Her uterus had shrunk due to menopause. It would have been an exhausting procedure but she insisted on having a child before she dies. We succumbed to her requests and decided to carry out the treatment to fulfil her wish,” Dr Bhanushali said.
The doctors said they first put her on medication to revive her menstrual cycle and later performed a surgery to increase the size of her uterus for artificial insemination.
“Luckily, she conceived at the first attempt,” the doctor said.
Despite the age and risks involved, the doctor said the couple were confident of having the baby and travelled 150 kilometres in a state-run bus twice a month for regular check-ups.
“We were a bit wary but Jivunben kept us motivated. She is a very positive woman,” said Dr Bhanushali, whose oldest patient before Jivunben was a 55-year-old woman.
IVF treatment has become more common in the country in the past decade and tens of thousands of such clinics have sprouted up.
There have been several instances where women in their 60s and 70s have given birth through the exhaustive procedure.
In 2019, Mangayamma, a 74-year-old woman from southern Andhra Pradesh had given birth to twin girls after IVF treatment involving a donor’s egg and her husband’s sperm.
Many fertility specialists have criticised geriatric pregnancy, believing it poses potential health risks as well as raising concerns of the child’s life when parents may not live long enough to raise them to adulthood.
Dr Kamini Patel, a leading IVF doctor from Gujarat who runs Vani IVF Centre in Ahmedabad, said the pregnancy would have been extremely taxing for the old woman and it is not advisable beyond the age of 52.
"There are no rules and regulations yet but there should not be IVF treatment beyond 52 years of age if a woman is physically, mentally and medically fit ... the chances of getting pregnant is 50 per cent if the uterus is fine.
"The doctors in this case must have carried out the treatment on moral and emotional grounds but it is not safe for a woman of that age. The real taxing part begins after the procedure because the pregnancy itself risks the heart and other organs as it is an extra burden on the body."
But Dr Bhanushali said it was “God’s will”.
“There has been criticism … some doctors have spoken against my decision but I am glad that I could bring joy into the old couple’s lives," he said.
“One should not take the risk but babies are God’s blessings. The couple have renewed energy and hope to live."