Older women 'deserve an IVF chance'

Mother of all arguments: Doctors Sonya Jessup and David Knight have no regrets about becoming parents again at their age. Picture: Jane Dyson
Mother of all arguments: Doctors Sonya Jessup and David Knight have no regrets about becoming parents again at their age. Picture: Jane Dyson

A CONNELLS Point couple who say older women should get the chance to have a child are living proof that they practise what they preach.

David Knight, 51, and Sonya Jessup, 43, are IVF specialists at Demeter Fertility, Hurstville, and are parents of an 11-month-old son, Samuel, conceived through IVF.

Dr Knight is the lead investigator in a Demeter clinical trial aimed at enabling women aged 40 to 45 to carry a child to full term.

The couple is well aware of the risks of late-age pregnancy — including increased infant death and Down syndrome — and do not advocate that women deliberately delay having their first baby until their 40s.

What they are unabashed about is "giving someone a chance" at becoming a parent.

"I think there's different opportunities at different ages and from a personal view I think I'm extraordinarily lucky to have had the opportunity [to be a dad again]," Dr Knight said.

He said he treated a woman last year who had undergone 14 IVF cycles before delivering a baby at 45 which was conceived using her own eggs.

"It was fantastic," he said. "These women have paid Medicare for 20 years. They should at least get a shot at it.

"Isn't it about giving someone a chance?

"And a lot of people just need to have a shot at something and if it didn't work they can go away and say, 'I tried everything that I could'.

"They'll go away disappointed because they didn't get a baby but often a lot of the regrets are gone because they've tried."

The couple has seven children from previous relationships, ranging in ages from six to 21. Baby Samuel is their first child together.

Dr Jessup said she found raising a baby "much more enjoyable" at her age.

"Sometimes you're just not set up to have them in your 20s even though it might be the best time to do it," she said.

"Our parents are retired so Dave's parents are coming over for two weeks tomorrow. They'll look after [Samuel] for two weeks."

Many parents, however, do not have parents who can or want to care for young children. Barry Walters, a doctor at a Perth hospital, told the Age newspaper in 2011 that late-age pregnancy was selfish and unfairly burdened young children with geriatric parents.

Dr Knight said Dr Walters — whom he knew — was entitled to his opinion.

BIRTH SNAPSHOT

 The median age of mothers who registered a birth in 2011 was 30.6 years, up from 30 years in 2001.

 In 2011, women could expect to have 1.9 children in their lifetime.

 The number of multiple births has increased consistently since the 1970s. In 2011, 4560 pregnancies resulted in multiple births, of which 62 were triplets or higher-order multiples.

 In 2011-12, 53 percent of mothers whose youngest child was aged five or under were employed, compared to 50 percent in 2006-07.

 In 2011, 86 percent of mums who returned to work after the birth of their child used at least one flexible work arrangement to assist with the care of their child, most commonly working part-time (76 percent).

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics gender indicators, January 2013.

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