A love story for Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2011Carole 1 Comment »

The Chicago Tribune published this story about a 61 year old woman who gave birth to her own grandson. Unconventional certainly, but clearly an act of love by a mother that allowed her daughter and son-in-law to have a biological child- her first grandchild. Her daughter and son-in-law had tried IVF for many years and although they became pregnant, each of their IVF pregnancies ended badly. They had stillborn twins in one pregnancy and a miscarriage in another pregnancy. Because the uterus retains its reproductive function much longer than the ovaries, it is possible for post-menopausal women to carry a pregnancy. In this case, the daughter’s eggs and son-in-law’s sperm were used to create IVF embryos which were transferred to the grandmother. The new grandmother delivered the baby by cesarean section with minimal complications. In this family, the arrangement worked well for everyone involved.

This heartwarming story does have a few cautions. Older women who are considering carrying a pregnancy  for themselves or another person should have a full cardiac evaluation to make sure they can tolerate the stresses of pregnancy. Some IVF programs set upper maternal age limits at which they will offer IVF services because of medical and/or ethical concerns regarding pregnancy risks to both the older mother and the child she carries. Older women and women carrying multiples appear to be at higher risk of severe complications and even death than singleton IVF pregnancies in younger women according to a recent published study.

The second cautionary note is that being a surrogate for somebody or using a surrogate is a big deal emotionally and some family dynamics just aren’t conducive to a good outcome. Many IVF programs will routinely send patients and family members who are considering being surrogates to counseling to discuss possible issues that may arise within the family from surrogacy. Sometimes situations can arise where it appears as though a younger relative is being coerced, sometimes even emotionally bullied to “do the right thing” for their older sister, aunt or cousin. A consult with a therapist specializing in third party reproduction may help sort out potential problems before going ahead with the IVF procedure.

The American Surrogacy Center published this useful  tip sheet called “All in the Family: using a family member as a surrogate” for couples considering this arrangement. Issues like compensation for the surrogate can become even more complicated when a family member is involved. Some states don’t recognize surrogacy agreements so contacting a family law attorney for advice about the validity of contracts and state adoption laws before starting a IVF cycle  with a surrogate is a good idea.

In spite of these cautions, I have seen many family “love stories” where family members gave and received the ultimate gift- a new branch on the family tree.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

© 2011, Carole. All rights reserved.

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