USC physicians stunned the world last week after announcing that a 63-year-old woman in their care gave birth to a healthy baby girl late last year.
On April 23, the team, lead by Richard Paulson, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, announced that the mother had successfully undergone a process of in vitro fertilization and frozen embryo transfer at USC’s Program for Assisted Reproduction.
A description of the case is published in the May issue of the medical journal Fertility and Sterility.
Paulson, who directed the patient’s care at the program, and his colleagues believe that their patient represents the oldest successful pregnancy on record.
The baby, delivered by cesarean section, weighed 6 pounds, 4 ounces.
When the patient first came to the USC clinic, she represented herself as being 50 years old-ten years younger than she actually was. Only after becoming pregnant did she reveal her true age to her obstetrician.
Had the individual disclosed her actual age to the IVF team, she would not have qualified for treatment at the USC program, which has an age limit of 55.
“All women over the age of 45 who wish to undergo oocyte [egg] donation must first pass a series of rigorous tests to ensure that they are fit enough to withstand the stress of pregnancy,” explained Paulson.
“This patient passed all the screening tests and produced multiple medical records from other institutions, all of which attested to her stated age of 53 at the time of infertility therapy. We had no reason to doubt her word, and we were not trying to set any records. The average age of women coming to us for oocyte donation is 43,” he said.
The Southern California resident has been married to her 60-year-old husband for 16 years, and the couple have no other children.
“It is remarkable that a 63-year-old can successfully conceive and adapt to the rigors of pregnancy sufficiently well to deliver a healthy baby at term,” Paulson said.
“It may be that women have not one, but two biological clocks-the clock for the eggs and ovaries seems to run out much earlier than the one for the uterus. This is why oocyte donation works so well for women in their 40s and beyond,” he said.
Paulson believes that physicians should not be legally required to confirm the age of IVF patients, even though in this particular case the deception was not discovered until midway through the pregnancy.
Such regulation, he said, would prove harmful by straining the physician-patient relationship and could potentially jeopardize the medical condition of women who are not entirely forthcoming in discussions with their doctors.
Paulson’s patient was 63 years and 2 weeks old at the time of embryo transfer, and 63 years and nine months at the time of delivery. A previous case from Italy reported a successful pregnancy in a 62-year-old woman.
The medical literature has so far documented fewer than 100 deliveries in women over age 50. Two prior successful births in women over age 60 have been reported, both in Italy. “Successful pregnancy in a 63-year-old woman,” by Richard Paulson, Melvin Thornton, Mary Francis and Herminia Salvador appears in the May issue of Fertility and Sterility.