14 Feb Was Tina Malone right to have donor-egg IVF?
We love Tina Malone. She had the courage and determination to have IVF with donor eggs at 50. The fact that it worked, albeit with the tragic loss of one of her twins, is a testament to medical science, and to her. Every woman has an equal right to a baby. Age is relative. Tina Malone has shown that donor eggs are a superb alternative to traditional IVF for women who, through circumstances often beyond their control, have families later in life.
Everyone has an opinion about IVF. And older mums. Heart transplant at 70? No worries. Smoking all your life? Your choice. But a woman’s decision to have IVF? People make it their business to pass comment. Not than Tina Malone cares: “Why do people have the right to tell me what I should or shouldn’t do?” She’s right.
Running alongside the publicity for the moving TV programme “Tina Malone: Pregnant at 50” was a national survey on the public’s attitude to IVF. Other people’s IVF. In an age where we’re living for longer, liberal parenting arrangements are increasing and medical breakthroughs are commonplace, the statistics are surprisingly conservative and judgemental.
Out of 2,000 people, almost 75 per cent thought women shouldn’t have IVF after their natural childbirth years. 25 per cent said women musn’t have babies after 40. And over half said a 50-year-old mum (e.g. Tina Malone) would be a bad parent.
Hostility towards older mothers is everywhere. Just look at the reader comments on Tina Malone on news portals – and we don’t just mean the Daily Mail. “She will be 72 when the child celebrates her 21st birthday”, someone writes. “Maybe she should have a brain transplant instead.” Or: “Try adopting.” Or, a general comment on IVF guidelines proposing treatment to women aged 42: “Why? Our planet is becoming grossly over-populated. Where are all these extra babies going to go?”
Ignorance is infectious; it should be fought on all fronts. Even national governments promote it (why isn’t donor-egg IVF available on the NHS?). A fit and healthy 72-year-old with a happy and deeply-loved 21-year-old daughter is perfectly acceptable. It’s quality of love that matters, not the timeframe. And it’s likely we’ll all be living to a hundred within a generation anyway. So who cares about maternal age at delivery?
As parents, in our forties, of a beautiful baby daughter, we know that IVF babies are special babies. Donor-egg babies are even more precious. Like Tina Malone, the love we will give our baby is like no other. We struggled for years to have our baby and we believe we had a right to treatment and to be parents. The World Health Organisation classes infertility as a disease. IVF isn’t a lifestyle choice; it’s medical care.
Tina Malone speaks for older mothers everywhere, whether they had IVF or not. She says she has the stamina, health and finances to make a great mother. Good on her. As the IVF patients we help will testify, the motivation to be loving parents is all-consuming. For them, fertility treatment is a declaration of love.
Society must celebrate, not demonise, older parents. So let’s raise a glass to Tina Malone and her decision to become a mother. She deserves respect and support.