Fatherhood @ 96 raises more question than it answers!

By ZRG | Updated: Oct 18, 2012, 00:20 AM IST

Ankita Chakrabarty/ Zee Research Group/ Delhi

Ninety-six year old Ramajit Raghav has indeed put India on the top of the global virility index but his rather unusual feat raises questions ranging from the secret behind his manhood to more importantly the future of the child thus born. Also, tied in is the major threat such manly display poses to the well being of mothers who materialize the act that brings instant glory to such octogenarian plus fathers.

First, a poser for the potency level: at a time when independent research studies peg the number of impotent couples in India anywhere between 12-18 million, the case of Raghav fathering a child with his 52-year-old wife Shakuntala Devi baffles common understanding.

Raghav’s masculine feat beats his own earlier record where he had fathered his first child at the age of 94 in the year 2010. Nanu Ram Jogi from Rajasthan is also one among few lucky people who fathered his 21st child at the age of 90 in 2007. And if Raghav is to be believed, he isn’t going to stop anytime soon in fathering more children.

Raghav’s performance contrasts a study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) that said the sperm count of Indian men now stood at 20 million per ml as compared to 60 million per ml nearly 30 years ago.

When stress induced impotency is fast rising in urban India, examples like Raghav and Jogi raise obvious questions among their tribe. The most common question is: what keeps them going? While advancements in medical science technology have helped innumerable couples to achieve parenthood, whether virility in such men is natural or externally induced?

Unraveling the secret behind virility, Dr. Nandita Palshetkar, senior IVF Consultant at Fortis La Femme, says, “A proper and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle are the actual reasons behind the virility of these men.”

Stress management and abstinence from alcohol and smoking is the key. “Men should be free from stress and should avoid intake of tobacco products to avoid infertility at a younger age, suggests Dr. Palshetkar.

Men have slight advantage over women when it comes to ageing. Biological clock usually does not tick for men as he ages. A man continues to produce sperm throughout his life time. So, he continues to remain fertile throughout, so a man becoming a father at an age above 70 is something which is not quite unimaginable. However, the quality of the sperm does get affected in some men.

The problem basically arises for a woman whose ability to produce egg stops after her menopause, basically after the age of 50. It is then when she goes for ‘Assisted Reproductive Technology’ (ART) methods like ‘In-vitro fertilization’ (IVF) which helps her to conceive and give birth beyond the natural limit. That is why bearing a child at the age of 50 or more for women raises severe heath concerns.

In 1941, though, world’s oldest mother in USA gave birth to a child. The mothers name was Mrs. Steve Pace and she gave birth at the age of 73 years. In November 2008, Rajo Devi Lohan from India gave birth to her first child, at the age of 70.

As cases of older parenthood are becoming popular these days, it has raised a variety of ethical and factual questions which needs to be addressed immediately. However, not much is being done to address the safety and the psychological impact of these practices. Expressing deep concern over the issue, Dr. Rashmi Sharma, consultant at Moolchand Fertility and IVF, Delhi, lamented, “A lady above the age of 50 years cannot reproduce naturally and hence she adopts ART methods to fulfill her desire to have a baby.”

“Right to a child should not be achieved at the expense of the right of a child. The child is the sufferer of the lot. Also, lots of complications may arise in the process which might be risky and hence there should be an age limit defined by the government at which ART methods can be refused,” warned Dr. Sharma.

India is not alone when it comes to fathering children above the age of 70. Raymond Calvert became Britain`s oldest father at the age of 78 in the year 2010 after fathering a child with a woman who was 54 years younger to him. He broke the record of Dennis Ealam who became father at the age of 76. Dennis Ealam’s 36-year-old wife gave birth to their daughter on December 11, 2009, two months after Ealam turned 76.

Richard Roden of United Kingdom at the age of 72 became the proud father of 13 after his 26-year-old wife gave birth to a daughter in 2011. Two years earlier he also became the oldest man ever to have twins when his wife gave birth to their twin daughters. All three of the couple`s children were claimed to be conceived naturally. He has seven daughters and three sons from two earlier marriages.

Some renowned celebrities have also added to the list of ‘Oldest Father’. Hollywood star Clint Eastwood was 66 when his youngest daughter, was born in 1996. The 81-year-old has seven children with five women in total.

Des O’Connor, the famous English comedian and singer became father for the fifth time at the age of 72 in the year 2007 when his fourth wife gave birth to their son.