Observer News Service
An Indo-Canadian senior has become the oldest Canadian woman to give birth. Sixty-year-old Ranjit Hayer gave birth to twin boys in Calgary city this week after going in-vitro fertility treatment in India.
Hayer and her husband Jagir Hayer have been trying to have a baby for the past 40 years. After being rejected by Canadian doctors for in-vitro fertilization because of her old age, the Hayers travelled to her native India get fertilized with a donated egg.
Delivered seven weeks premature by caesarian section, the two boys - Manjot and Gurpreet - are in neo-natal intensive care and doing well, reports quoted doctors as saying.
The mother was also recovering in intensive care, the doctors added.
"My wife is very good. I am very happy. God has given me boys, later in life. I want to throw a big party,'' a beaming Jagir Hayer told a Calgary newspaper.
As old-age pregnancies can lead to complications and even death, Canadian fertility clinics refuse to give in-vitro fertilization treatment to women over 50.
Though Ranjit Hayer reportedly also went through complications during the pregnancy, her extended Indian family welcomed the birth of twins with much fanfare.
The newspaper quoted Hayer's younger sister, Daljit, as saying, "We always prayed for them to have children. It's a very special moment.
"In Indian culture, children are a blessing. It's very, very uncommon for a married couple to not have children.''
Despite her age, Ranjit Hayer was determined to have children.
According to the Toronto Star newspaper, she suffered three miscarriages. She sought fertility treatments, only to be turned down by Canadian physicians. She went to India for in-vitro fertilization, only to be cheated of her savings. So she saved up and returned to India last year to receive the treatment.
The lengths Hayer and her husband were willing to go to have their babies have opened an ethical debate about how far science should go to intercede when nature has other plans.
"She was healthy throughout her pregnancy and, yes, she had some concerns, but the doctors told her she and the babies were doing good and she felt relief," said her nephew Tony Hayer.
The twins will be the most loved babies imaginable because it took their parents so long to successfully conceive, he added.
Tony Hayer said he expects some people will question whether his aunt and uncle did the right thing, but their extended family has no doubts, he said.
"They had worked hard their whole lives and they lived in their own home and they were very lonely," he said. "They tried for a long time to have kids and finally succeeded, so everyone in the family is just so happy."
Ranjit Hayer went twice to India for in-vitro fertility treatments after being told by doctors in Calgary, where she and her husband have lived for 20 years, that she was too old to become a parent.
As a younger couple, the Hayers tried for decades to conceive naturally, enduring three miscarriages. In Canada, Hayer underwent surgery, reportedly after a doctor diagnosed a problem with her womb, but was still unable to carry a child to term.
After being cheated of her money the first time, she saved up in Canada for a return to India last year and successfully underwent in-vitro fertilization, becoming pregnant with triplets from donor eggs.
One of the embryos eventually had to be terminated and Hayer has spent the last four weeks in hospital. It's not clear whether her husband donated the sperm.
Hayer's age and her decision to seek in-vitro fertilization abroad and become pregnant after she was refused treatment in this country have raised ethical questions in the minds of Canada's medical community.
Her own obstetrician, Dr. Colin Birch, voiced doubts, telling the CBC that he couldn't reconcile himself with the idea of a 60-year-old woman getting in-vitro fertilization.
"It's going against nature. It's going against so many different things. The nature and the body has said that unfortunately you've made it to 60 and haven't had children. Unfortunately, there is some reason for that," Birch said.
"Sixty is not an optimal time to be gestating an offspring, not to mention lactating and caring for an offspring," said Juliet Guichon, who teaches bioethics at University of Calgary faculty of medicine.
Fertility specialists were right in refusing to attempt to impregnate Hayer because of her age, Guichon added ? but her doctors were also right in agreeing to treat her once she returned to Canada pregnant.
Guichon said doctors are ethically bound to provide the best care for a patient, including recommending against pregnancy attempts.
Hayer did get some encouragement from another 60-year-old woman to give birth in the US. Frieda Birnbaum said the new mother needs to know she's making history for herself and other women. "Sixty's just a number," she said in an interview from her home in Saddle River, N.J.
"She should enjoy the opportunity to raise beautiful children and to help other women younger than herself not to fear that getting older means that you're old."