A new Al Jazeera documentary finds:
- Rising numbers of women in their 70s are giving birth in India
- The IVF industry is booming, but no laws protect the health of women and babies
- Young women have died after donating their eggs to older women
- Critics say doctors are ‘playing God’ and regulations are urgently needed
Like any new mother, Daljinder Kaur is besotted with her newborn. But Kaur, who recently gave birth to a baby boy, is not like most first-time mothers. She’s 72 years old – one of the oldest women in the world to give birth.
101 East reporter Mary Ann Jolley travels to India to investigate the country’s booming in vitro fertilisation industry, as doctors are accused of endangering the health of women and babies.
She finds an industry out of control, where there are no laws to protect older women who are desperate to become mothers, or the young women who are pumped full of hormones and paid to donate their eggs.
“It’s almost 40 years since the first IVF baby was born in India,” says Jolley. “Since then, there’s been an explosion in the number of IVF clinics yet there are still no laws governing the industry.”
Jolley meets the doctor who is helping women like Kaur have babies. Dr Anurag Bishnoi tells Jolley he has helped more than 100 women over the age of 50 have babies. He insists his clinic in the northern Indian town of Hisar only treats older women who pass rigorous health checks but critics say he is putting women’s lives at risk.
Jolley meets another of his patients, Rajo Devi Lohan, who previously held the world record for the oldest first-time mother. She was 70 when she had her daughter in 2008. Since then, she’s been diagnosed with cancer and had three operations to repair a ruptured uterus. “The doctor didn’t tell me anything about the dangers and I never felt that there was any danger,” she says.
India’s oldest mothers and the doctors behind their pregnancies are gaining headlines around the world, but many health professionals are appalled that elderly women are giving birth.
“Getting a 72-year-old pregnant is putting her life in jeopardy,” says Dr Narendra Malhotra, president of the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction.
Jolley also discovers that the young, poor women who are paid to donate their eggs to older women are given dangerously high levels of hormones. She reveals that at least two donors, including a 17-year-old, have died after their eggs were harvested.
In this compelling documentary, 101 East explores the ethics of giving birth at any age and investigates an IVF industry out of control.
India’s Miracle Babies screens on 14 September 2016 at 1630 GMT / 1730 WAT / 1830 CAT / 1930 EAT on 101 East, Al Jazeera’s award-winning weekly current affairs programme focusing on a diverse range of stories across Asia and the Pacific. After it airs, the documentary will be available on YouTube and http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/101east/.
For more information, follow 101 East on Twitter on @AJ101East and Facebook at 101East – Al Jazeera.