Generally, any woman who has reached puberty but has not yet gone through menopause can get pregnant the old fashioned way. Certain medical problems may render women infertile even at the prime of life, but it is accepted that women eventually become infertile as they age. Medical technology is pushing the boundaries of that phenomenon. It is possible for a women to get pregnant at 58-years-old, but most women will need various fertility treatments to do so.
Facts and Risks
While most Western women go through menopause between the ages of 45 and 55, women as old as 60 occasionally still have periods and thus can theoretically become pregnant. Women in developing countries tend to go through menopause about eight years earlier.
The oldest known “natural mother”, meaning she became pregnant without medical intervention, was 59. The previous record-holder had been 57 when she gave birth in 1956. Needless to say, natural pregnancy so late in life is extremely rare.
With in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment, women in their sixties or even early seventies have become pregnant and successfully carried their pregnancies to term. Because most Western countries have laws against performing IVF procedures at such an age, these women received treatment in Eastern Europe, Russia or other medical tourism destinations.
The reason for the ban in developed countries is generally that the medical community in each country has decided that the risks of the procedure to both mother and babies outweighs the benefits of allowing women to have children late in life. Simply put, risk goes up with age. Mothers face risks of gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and surgery complications from Caesarian delivery. These are all treatable, however the most serious risk is for premature birth. Babies born as early as 20 weeks can survive, but have a very low chance of doing so without severe and permanent disabilities.
Emotional and ethical pitfalls
A more personal, emotional risk comes from the difference in age between parent and child. A woman who gets pregnant at 58 will be 77 when her child graduates from high school. Given an average woman's life expectancy of around 81, it is likely that the child would lose both his parents before he graduates from university. He also faces higher than normal risk of being orphaned while still a minor.
Ethical debates have sprung up around the use of IVF in post-menopausal women. Some liken the ban to telling pregnant teenagers that they're not allowed to become mothers. Others point out that the risks to the baby outweigh the mother's desire to have her own biological child, and suggest surrogacy or adoption as preferable alternatives.
Talk to your doctor and your family about the risks, the rewards, and the support network you'll need throughout the child's life, if you're passing menopause and are considering pregnancy.