January 17, 2005
66 Year Old Romanian Woman Gives Birth
Her 33 week pregnancy was over 6 weeks short of a full 40 week pregnancy.
She underwent fertility treatment for nine years, including procedures to reverse the effects of menopause, before being artificially inseminated and then having a Caesarean at 33 weeks.
Most of the news reports on this story do not mention the most important point: she had a donor egg.
Adriana Iliescu, who was artificially inseminated using sperm and egg from anonymous donors, delivered her daughter Eliza Maria by Caesarean section, doctors at the Giulesti Maternity Hospital in Bucharest said. The child's twin sister was stillborn, they said.
So drugs could get her reproductive tract to the point where she could start and maintain a pregnancy for over 7 months.
The pregnancy started out with triplets but only one made it.
Marinescu said Iliescu was successfully inseminated on the first attempt, and that she initially was carrying triplets but lost the third fetus after nine to 10 weeks.
After two of the fetuses died a Caesarean was done.
The girl was born prematurely by Caesarean section after her twin sister died in the womb, the hospital said.
When it becomes possible to rejuvenate reproductive tracts the world could be faced with a population explosion. Career women especially can be expected to have children when they are finally able to do so with assurance in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. Here is the future for the most ambitious and talented women: Make it to the top of the corporate ladder, and stash away millions. Then get rejuvenation treatments to get young again, retire, and make babies.
Artificial wombs will also eventually remove the limits on reproduction caused by aging. Cloning techniques combined with rejuvenation techniques will even allow women to make babies with lab-produced eggs rather than with ovaries. Then there will be no need for women to burden themselves with menstrual cycles or pregnancy. My guess though is that some women will still opt for pregnancy for the experience.
Once rejuvenation becomes possible I predict that some or all governments will eventually limit the number of births each woman can have. Otherwise rejuvenated women who like children could have dozens or hundreds of children over a period of centuries.
Until "lab-produced eggs" are available, won't women having children in their "40s, 50s, and 60s" still be limited by the the degradation of the quality of natural eggs that starts to occur around age 35? Doesn't the quality of sperm start to degrade at around the same age?
I see an obvious way around the problems you refer to: Have your eggs or sperm frozen while you are young. Then thaw them out decades later. Some fraction of them will still be viable.
However, the "lab-produced" eggs are probably going to be available in a decade or two. So whether it makes sense to freeze your sperm or eggs depends on your age. A woman in her late 20s with no prospective mate in sight or a woman in her 30s intent on pursuing her career probably ought to get her eggs frozen if she wants to reproduce some day.
I am not at all concerned about this becoming a problem. Self preservation will keep this problem from becoming more than a marginal phenomena. The health impact of pregnancy on a woman is huge. As women age these factors increase dramatically (Calcium loss alone is a major issue that would significantly reduce quality of life for women).
While the trends are interesting, I don't see this particular case as a positive development. First and forement, women aren't biologically supposed to be having babies at that age. It would be folly to suggest they can do so safely (or even should attempt to). Second, what about the child? The life expectancy for a Romanian woman is 74. (Both sexes is 71.) The mother in all likelihood will not survive to see the child reach college age. Some people also find it valuable that their children grow up knowing their grandparents, clearly impossible in this kind of circumstance.
Short of artificial wombs, Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars" trilogy provides some fascinating speculation about what might happen in the light of the 'rejuvenation' you suggest. As I recall, it's not pretty!
Any society where people can afford IVF will be one where overpopulation will not be a risk. Developed countries dramatically reduce their fertility rates, and I don't think it is just a matter of putting off having children, but more of an enhanced opportunity to invest in the human capital of a smaller number of children, as well as opportunities to get late-life returns from other investments besides children.
Developed country birth rates will not stay low indefinitely. Natural selection is even now selecting for women who have a stronger desire to have children even in conditions of modern industrial societies.
In some African countries the fertility rate decline has bottomed out and fertility is on the rise. In Niger women have 8 children on average and in Yemen they have 7. Bring these people rejuvenation therapies and they will have dozens or hundreds of children.
Also, give them many more decades to have children and more people will eventually reproduce. Currently a lot of Hollywood starlets in their late 30s and 40s who are having children are doing this with donor eggs. They waited too long and their fertility dropped too low. But many more are repelled by the idea of donor eggs. Some regular folks can't afford the expense Give them a way to have their own genetic children later in life and many will opt to do so. When they finally meet Mr. or Mrs. Right (or give up looking) and been they have enough economic success they will reproduce.
As for human capital investment: It does not help that much. See Alex Tabarrok on Korean adoptees in different social classes in America in his posts Nature, Nurture and Income and Nature and Nurture Again.
"Once rejuvenation becomes possible I predict that some or all governments will eventually limit the number of births each woman can have. Otherwise rejuvenated women who like children could have dozens or hundreds of children over a period of centuries."
You assume that societies will have the same attitude towards world overpopulation as now. Computer technology for learning enhancement and genetic engineering for child enhancement should start making new births such an economic positive that they outweigh and maybe even mitigate the negative environmental affects of overcrowding. If a woman can have "dozens or hundreds of children over a period of centuries" that would be bad if they have average IQ. But if they are Einsteins with drive and determination than I think the carrying capacity of the earth and solar system increases more with each birth(or at least 30 years later as each birth makes its contributions to society) than that birth uses up.
We don't need 10 billion Einsteins. Go out 50 years and we will be able to get any brain power we need from artificial intelligence.