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Advanced maternal age: ethical and medical considerations for assisted reproductive technology

Authors Harrison BJ, Hilton TN, Rivière RN, Ferraro ZM, Deonandan R, Walker MC

Received 13 April 2017

Accepted for publication 15 June 2017

Published 16 August 2017 Volume 2017:9 Pages 561—570

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/IJWH.S139578

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Leyla Bahar

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Professor Elie Al-Chaer

Brittany J Harrison,1 Tara N Hilton,1 Raphaël N Rivière,1 Zachary M Ferraro,1–3 Raywat Deonandan,4 Mark C Walker1–3,5

1Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada; 2Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, University of Ottawa, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, ON, Canada; 3Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, ON, Canada; 4University of Ottawa Interdisciplinary School of Health Sciences, Ottawa, ON, Canada; 5Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Newborn Care, The Ottawa Hospital, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Objectives: This review explores the ethical and medical challenges faced by women of advanced maternal age who decide to have children. Assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs) make post-menopausal pregnancy physiologically plausible, however, one must consider the associated physical, psychological, and sociological factors involved.
Methods: A quasi-systematic review was conducted in PubMed and Ovid using the key terms post-menopause, pregnancy + MeSH terms [donations, hormone replacement therapy, assisted reproductive technologies, embryo donation, donor artificial insemination, cryopreservation]. Overall, 28 papers encompassing two major themes (ethical and medical) were included in the review.
Conclusion: There are significant ethical considerations and medical (maternal and fetal) complications related to pregnancy in peri- and post-menopausal women. When examining the ethical and sociological perspective, the literature portrays an overall positive attitude toward pregnancy in advanced maternal age. With respect to the medical complications, the general consensus in the evaluated studies suggests that there is greater risk of complication for spontaneous pregnancy when the mother is older (eg, >35 years old). This risk can be mitigated by careful medical screening of the mother and the use of ARTs in healthy women. In these instances, a woman of advanced maternal age who is otherwise healthy can carry a pregnancy with a similar risk profile to that of her younger counterparts when using donated oocytes.

Keywords: maternal age, medical, ethical, assisted reproduction, menopause

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