While it’s not impossible to become pregnant naturally in the late 40s or 50s, it is, nevertheless, rare with experts always warning that conceiving at such age can increase the risk of some health problems for the baby and the mother. Mrs. Modupe Gabriel, a school proprietress in Lagos, however, defied the odds by conceiving naturally at age 49 and giving birth to twins. The feat was also remarkable because Mrs. Gabriel had battled infertility for over 23 years and even had a failed IVF. LARA ADEJORO writes on her remarkable story and the contentious medical issues about women with late pregnancy
An overwhelming joy lit up her face the first time she saw her twin children – a boy and a girl. Carrying a pregnancy without any reproductive assistance during her run-up to the fifth decade is a big deal for her.
Mrs. Modupe Gabriel had no plan to have children late but things ended up that way for her as she had to battle infertility for 23 years.
While she peers intently at her ‘miracle babies’, her mind flashed back to the years she was fervently expectant and battling infertility.
She visited several hospitals in her quest to get a solution to her fertility problem and even had a failed In vitro fertilisation treatment.
She recalled how she had to put on a brave face while with family and friends. Mrs. Gabriel, however, says she never slipped into a panic because of her condition but rather remained hopeful.
As a school proprietress in Lagos, she kept on with her work and responsibilities as a wife. She made up her mind never to compromise her faith despite the challenges.
Fortunately, she was confirmed pregnant a few months after her 49th birthday.
“I had been advised by people to go diabolical to have a child, I spent a lot of money going to hospitals, I’ve had a failed IVF but I’ve kept on trusting only in God.
“I’ve always believed that anything God cannot give me, I don’t want. We waited patiently and it is indeed worth it, though it seems so tough and discouraging, however, with God by our side, it became a thing of the past,” the delighted mother said.
For Mrs. Gabriel, being older didn’t mean biting her nails with worry through the pregnancy despite the risks involved.
“I was told I had gotten to my menopausal stage but I was still menstruating. When I was confirmed pregnant, my doctor told me I needed to be on bed rest but I was strong and I was able to do my job in my school, I wasn’t idle or lazy, I was up and doing,” she said.
Her children arrived in the New Year – January 25, 2022.
Pregnancy after age 45 likely, but rare
Her late pregnancy is rare, but she is certainly not alone. While there is no national data on women with late pregnancy without reproductive assistance, findings show that few women in their late 50s have natural conception and deliver healthy babies.
Experts say pregnancy after age 45 years is considered a high risk for the mother and baby.
A Professor of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Rotimi Akinola said it is out of the ordinary to have a baby in the late 40s or 50s but nothing is impossible.
“In medicine, you never say never. So, if somebody has late menopause, she still has eggs to shed, so it’s not impossible for that person to get pregnant, maybe accidentally.”
“The only thing is that the eggs that will be shed at 49 have a high risk of genetic abnormality,” Akinola said.
According to him, conceiving a child without IVF or other interventions presents an increased risk of certain chromosomal problems with age.
“For people from the age of 37, they begin to have that risk so I won’t be surprised if, at 49, you have a risk of about 1 in 60 that it might be genetically abnormal, chromosomal abnormal like Down syndrome.”
Prof. Akinola, however, noted that most times, women with late pregnancy are not honest with the method of pregnancy.
“When you are hearing that 60 years old give birth, they often do with assistance and often, that assistance is with donated eggs.
“Plenty of women in their 40s have children but have a high risk of genetic abnormality. As long as you’re not menopausal, it’s possible that they still have a few eggs and those eggs can still yield children but from 59, most women in that age group will be menopausal and menopause simply means no more eggs. If such a person menstruates, it will send panic to the doctors because the person might be dealing with tumors.
“When the eggs are no longer there, the only way that person can conceive is through assisted reproduction with the help of donated eggs.”
Risk for complications increases
The gynaecologist said it will be challenging for such a woman to maintain her health because of the chance of becoming hypertensive or diabetic.
He noted that the older an egg, the more likely it is to have chromosomal issues, which can increase the child’s risk for birth defects.
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