UCL News


UCL Conference: Motherhood in the 21st Century

27 August 2009

Why do some women choose to become mothers late in life? What does this mean for their chances of conceiving? Is a different standard applied to elderly mothers than elderly fathers? These and other questions will be addressed at a conference, 'Motherhood in the 21st Century', on Friday 18 September 2009 at UCL (University College London).

Lord Robert Winston will give the opening address.

Talks at the conference will cover the effects of age on reproduction (Professor John Carroll, UCL), medical treatment of older mothers (Professor Peter Brinsden, President of The British Fertility Society), the ethics of older mothers (Professor Anna Smajdor, University of East Anglia) and the evolutionary basis of older mothers (Professor Ruth Mace, UCL). Professor Shere Hite (New York University) will discuss feminism and human reproduction.

Professor John Carroll, UCL Cell and Developmental Biology, says: "Despite advances in modern medicine and longer life expectancies, fertility still hits biological limits with age. One of the main problems is the greater number of chromosome errors in the eggs of older mothers. As the technology becomes more accessible women may want to consider freezing their eggs and ovaries, and the future may bring new approaches to generating viable eggs in the laboratory through culture of ovarian tissue or the use of stem cell technologies."

Professor Sammy Lee, UCL Cell and Developmental Biology and conference convener, says: "Some people may find the notion of a seventy-year old carrying and delivering a baby shocking, but older mothers are on the rise. Older motherhood has become possible through advances in modern medicine. Prospective mothers over 55 are now more likely to be able to endure the hardships of motherhood. This topic needs a public airing to combat prejudice and preconceptions about motherhood and focus on the most important issues, such as the welfare of the child and of the mother, and how egg donation should be financed and regulated."

Notes for Editors

1. For more details or to register for the conference, please visit http://www.cdb.ucl.ac.uk/oldermothers/

2. The conference will be held on Friday 18 September 2009 in the JZ Young Lecture Theatre, UCL, Anatomy Building, Gower Street London, WC1E 6BT.

3. Journalists who wish to attend the event or find out more should contact Jenny Gimpel at the UCL Media Relations Office on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9726 or Ruth Howells on tel: +44 (0)20 7679 9739, out of hours +44 (0)7917 271 364, e-mail: j.gimpel@ucl.ac.uk or ruth.howells@ucl.ac.uk.

4. The conference is sponsored by Cook Medical, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, Fertipro N.V., Hunter Scientific, Progress Educational Trust, Research Instruments Limited, Rocket Medical Plc.

5. Sammy Lee is Visiting Professor in Biomedical Science ABC Medical School Sao Paulo, and Honorary Teaching Fellow at UCL.