The Washington Post brings us news of a growing trend in India: Elderly women birthing IVF children. One woman, Rajo Devi Lohan, recently gave birth through IVF in her 70s.
In the past 18 months, the doctors at this [single rural] clinic have helped 100 women older than 50 become pregnant. About 60 were able to carry those pregnancies to full term. Some of the women received eggs donated by younger relatives. Their husbands’ sperm was used to fertilize the eggs in a lab, and the embryos were then inserted into the women’s wombs.
|Rajo Devi Lohan, 72, and Naveen, 18 months
(photo by Emily Wax/the Washington Post)
Not everyone is excited about the IVF trend.
With 1.2 billion people, India is still growing rapidly, and there are few efforts to control population growth, in sharp contrast to China’s one-child policy. Some planning advocates argue that India’s population is stalling development, adding to unemployment, and overwhelming roads, schools, water supplies and other basic infrastructure needs.
Cultural components, though, will likely make curbing population growth difficult.
“The women come to us and say, ‘Even if I die, at least I won’t face the stigma of being barren,’ ” said Anurag Bishnoi, the center’s lead IVF specialist. “These women are like soldiers:, They are on the front lines for their family, their country. They may die, but their family and country will live.”
Not only is childbearing itself important, the pressure to have a male heir is crushing.
More than 40 years ago, Rohtash gave birth to five daughters and one son. But seven years ago, her son died in a car accident. Now she wants to try again for a male heir, a powerful cultural preference in India that many population experts say contributes to women having babies until a son is born. “The risk for a son and a balanced family is my destiny,” she said. “I consider this place to be God.”
The cultural imperatives are enabled by the relatively low cost of IVF procedures.
One IVF attempt at this clinic costs about $2,500, while in the United States it can run up to $15,000. Although the fees in India are high for middle-class families earning a typical $15,000 to $20,000 a year, they are often able to get money from relatives or a bank loan. Rohtash’s family of farmers did both.
I honestly can’t imagine living in such a culture.