Ivf Triplets For 53-year-old Woman Are Simply `magic'

Sydney Morning Herald

Wednesday June 3, 1998


As debate on assisted reproduction surged yesterday after the birth of triplets to a 53- year-old South Australian woman, Mrs Wendy Kenyon, her husband Phil had one word for the program. "Magic".

And why did he and his wife, at a mature age, pursue assisted reproductive technology to have children instead of working on their retirement portfolio?

"We wanted a brother for Dean. We didn't want him to be on his own," Mr Kenyon, 50, told an Adelaide reporter with Channel Seven News.

The Kenyons were shaken at the media attention which greeted the arrival of the five-weeks premature triplets, Trent, Darelle and Rebecca, born last Thursday at Adelaide's Women and Children's Hospital. The couple already have four sons: Dean, Paul, Gary and Corey.

Mr Kenyon said he "didn't think" about his wife's age. "To me, she's quite young still, and she's a very good mum too."

While Mrs Kenyon is the oldest woman to give birth to triplets using assisted reproduction in Australia, the National Perinatal Statistics Unit says the oldest assisted-reproduction birth was for a woman aged 56. The unit's director, Associate Professor Paul Lancaster, would not say what year the birth occurred, for privacy concerns.

The previous oldest mother with IVF triplets was 43. In 1996 there were 11 naturally conceived babies to women over 50.

Professor Robert Jansen, head of the infertility department at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, said there "was a lot more demand than realised" among women in their fifties, "but the great majority are talked out of going any further". The impetus was often a late marriage, or remarriage to a younger man.

However, an age cap would be discriminatory. What mattered was the circumstances of the woman, her general health and ability to look after a child, and that there was not a coercive or dependent relationship with the egg donor.

He questioned why three eggs were transferred from an "obviously healthy young donor", when there was widely known research that it was the "age of the eggs", not the age of the uterus, which was the significant factor in conception. He said the Fertility Society of Australia was encouraging policies leading to fewer multiple births, and their drain on health resources.

A consultant ethicist, Mr Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, criticised the transfer of three embryos. He believed cases involving older women should go to an independent ethics committee.

The Rev Dr Andrew Dutney, chairman of the South Australian Council on Reproductive Technology, said the three-embryo implantation met national guidelines. "I'm quite sure everyone was startled that she had triplets. It wasn't the intention," he said. The couple, and the donor, had been counselled, and had worked through the ethical issues now being discussed.

As for Mr Kenyon, the medical reproductive staff "are a true, dedicated group of people".

"There are a lot of people out there who would like children and can't have them, and without their help they'd be very isolated," he said.

"It will be great. I'm looking forward to the babies coming home."

© 1998 Sydney Morning Herald

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