For some women, the desire to become a mother defies all logic and sometimes, even common sense and personal safety. Take the case of a 67-year-old woman from China, known only by her surname, Zhang. Ms. Zhang made headlines recently when it was reported that she was carrying twins - a rare and risky pregnancy that was anything but spontaneous.
After losing their only son to a car accident four years ago, Ms. Zhang and her husband were determined to have another child. However, due to their advanced age, the couple was unable to conceive naturally and were refused by Chinese adoption agencies. Left with no other option, they travelled to Taiwan to seek help from doctors who specialized in in-vitro fertilization. Remarkably, less than one month later, they had successfully conceived.
But unfortunately, the story doesn't end there.
After returning to China from Taiwan, the family was met with harsh criticism, especially from doctors who insisted that continuing the pregnancy would be extremely risky - for both mom and the developing babies. Diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure) and considered a "high-risk" pregnancy, Ms. Zhang was subsequently refused treatment from Chinese hospitals and even advised to terminate her pregnancy.
But the 67-year-old has vowed to carry her twins to term and raise them herself, despite the risks involved.
"No one cared about me when I lost my only child, so I found a way out by myself," she told The Beijing News. "I’m prepared to support a child, and I believe I could live to 85 to see my child grow up to be an adult."
With the average age of first-time mothers in the rise, more and more are turning to alternative methods of conception, namely in-vitro fertilization. But statistically, women 35 and older - nearly half the age of both Ms. Zhang and Ms. Hailin - are considered at risk when it comes to both carrying a child and giving birth.
This is due to a number of factors. Women of advanced maternal age are more likely to develop gestational diabetes, and according to a study conducted in 2017, mothers older than 40 were 16 times more likely to suffer from kidney failure. Moms aren't the only ones at risk, either. Children born to older mothers are more likely to be premature and be diagnosed with chromosomal disorders, such as Down Syndrome. Miscarriage and stillbirth rates have also been shown to increase.
If Ms. Zhang does, in fact, carry her twins to term, she would be the oldest woman in the world to give birth. The current record holder is Sheng Hailin, another Chinese woman who gave birth to twins in 2010 at age 64.