A grandmother has given birth to her own grandchild – because her daughter was born without a womb.
Emma Miles, 55, who already has two of her own children, gave the ultimate gift by offering to be a surrogate for her daughter Tracey Smith, 31, who feared she would never have a child of her own after being diagnosed with Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser Syndrome (MRKH).
Because Mrs Smith’s ovaries still worked normally, she used IVF with her husband, Adam, 40, to create an embryo which was then implanted into Mrs Miles.
Mrs Miles had to shed six stone (38kg) to reach a healthy weight and took hormone medication to help the IVF work first time.
Older mothers, those over 35, face a higher risk of miscarriage and pre-eclampsia – a complication that can prove deadly to both woman and baby. But desperate to help her daughter, Mrs Miles decided to go ahead with surrogacy anyway.
Mrs Miles – a supermarket worker – gave birth to Evie Siân Emma Smith on January 16. She was healthy and weighed 7lbs 7oz, though she was born by caesarean section because Mrs Miles’ natural labour was taking too long.
Emma Miles, 55, (right) was a surrogate for her own daughter, Tracey, and her husband, Adam, because Tracey had been born without a womb so couldn’t have children naturally herself
Evie Smith was born by c-section on January 16th this year, weighing 7lbs 7oz – her parents Mr and Mrs Smith must now formally adopt her because parental rights automatically go to the surrogate and her partner – Mrs Smith’s parents
Mrs Smith said: ‘Every moment of heartache was so worth it just to have our little bundle in our arms. I am so grateful to mum for her amazing gift to us’
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH RISKS OF A LATE PREGNANCY?
- Increased risk of complications for both mother and infant during pregnancy and delivery (although the actual size of the risk may be small).
- Greater risk of general maternal health problems, such as high blood pressure, which can contribute to complications.
- Higher risk of miscarriage in women above the age of 35.
- Higher risk of having twins or triplets, which is itself associated with higher risk of complications.
- Increased chance of having a baby with a congenital abnormality, such as Down’s syndrome.
- Increased risk of pre-eclampsia.
- Increased risk of complications during delivery, such as prolonged labour, need for assisted delivery or Caesarean section, or stillbirth.
Mrs Miles, who is also mother to Nicola, 24, said: ‘To find out that Tracey couldn’t have children was gutting to me.
‘She rarely felt able to open up but when I had the chance just after her diagnosis I remember sitting on her bed and saying: “I’m here if you need me.”
‘Despite my age I wasn’t worried about giving birth at all. All of my focus has been about doing this special thing for my daughter.
‘I don’t feel anymore attachment to Evie than any other proud grandmother. Tracey is my baby and I did it all for her to be a mother.
‘Now I’m glad to be back to work and getting back to normal. But I have offered to do it all again if they ever want a little brother or sister for Evie.’
It is thought that Mrs Miles is one of Britain’s oldest ever surrogate mothers. In 2011, it was reported that 57-year-old Pamela Butler, from Blackwood, South Wales, had become the oldest, after she gave birth to her grandchild Josef, whom she carried in the womb.
And in 2016, 67-year-old grandmother Anastassia Ontou, from Greece, reportedly became the world’s oldest surrogate mother. She also carried her daughter’s child.
Mr and Mrs Smith got married in February, two weeks after Evie was born. And this year Mrs Smith will celebrate her first Mother’s Day while thanking her own mother for her ‘amazing gift’.
She said: ‘Every moment of heartache was so worth it just to have our little bundle in our arms. I am so grateful to mum for her amazing gift to us.’
Mrs Smith, from Lampeter in Wales but now living in Coventry, found out she didn’t have a womb when she still hadn’t started her period by the age of 15.
Scans showed she had been born without a womb but she did have working ovaries and fallopian tubes.
At 16, Mrs Smith was diagnosed with MRKH – a condition which causes the vagina and uterus to be underdeveloped or absent, although external genitalia are normal.
The deformity affects around one in 5,000 women and is incurable. Doctors told a devastated Mrs Smith that she would never carry her own child.
At the time her mother, Mrs Miles, said she would do anything she could to help.
But it was almost 15 years later when Mrs Smith and her husband were considering fertility treatment and took Mrs Miles up on the offer.
Mrs Smith, a nursery worker, said: ‘When I was diagnosed it tipped my world upside down. I was heartbroken at the idea that I wouldn’t carry my own child.
‘I’d always known that I wanted to be a mum, even at 15.
Mr and Mrs Smith, pictured on their wedding day in February, two weeks after Evie was born, conceived their daughter using IVF and had the embryo implanted into Mrs Smith’s mother
Mrs Miles even lost six stone and took hormonal medication so she could be as healthy as possible for the pregnancy
Mrs Smith, pictured with her husband Adam, 40, found out she couldn’t have children of her own naturally when she was a teenager, because she had been born without a womb. However, she still has functioning ovaries
Mrs Miles, who had always intended to be her daughter’s surrogate if she wanted her to, said: ‘To find out that Tracey couldn’t have children was gutting to me… Despite my age I wasn’t worried about giving birth at all. All of my focus has been about doing this special thing for my daughter’
Mr Smith (with his mother-in-law, who was eight months pregnant in this picture) and his wife considered using a surrogate through an agency but were concerned about UK laws which mean the surrogate and her husband automatically become the legal parents of the baby
WHAT IS SURROGACY?
Surrogacy is when a woman carries a baby for a couple who are unable to conceive or carry a child themselves.
Such couples may include those who have suffered recurrent miscarriages, repeated IVF failures, premature menopause or a hysterectomy.
The risks of being a surrogate mother are the same as for every pregnancy, and include nausea, heart burn and back ache.
In extreme cases, surrogates can suffer high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.
This involves using the surrogate’s egg and the intended father’s sperm.
It is the least expensive and simplest form of the procedure.
Host surrogacy requires IVF with either the intended mother’s eggs or donor eggs rather than those of the surrogate.
In this case, the surrogate is genetically unrelated to the baby.
Donor eggs can be from friends or relatives, or anonymously donated.
What are the laws?
Surrogacy is legal in the UK, however, it cannot be advertised.
No third parties are allowed to be involved and surrogates can only receive payments to cover expenses incurred as a result of being pregnant.
In the US, surrogacy costs around $100,000 (£75,879), with laws varying between states.
Source: Surrogacy UK
‘Straight after my diagnosis mum made an offer to do what she could to help. I knew that she meant one day she’d carry my child for me.
‘Over the years she mentioned it in passing but we never really made a firm plan.
‘It was only after I met Adam and we got engaged in 2016 that he broached the subject of children.’
The couple considered using a surrogacy agency but were apprehensive because of the UK’s ‘outdated’ laws.
‘The law in this country gives the surrogate – and her husband if she has one – all parental rights from birth and that felt like a huge risk,’ Mrs Smith said.
Instead, she turned to her mother and asked if she had been serious when she offered to help all those years ago.
She said: ‘I remembered mum’s promise to me.
‘So the next time we met up I asked her if she’d been serious about carrying our baby.
‘I was delighted when she replied: “Of course I was”. She had just been waiting for me to ask.’
Mrs Smith’s father, Robert Miles, 61, offered his support, too, and made sure it was put in writing through a solicitor that they would happily give parental rights to Mr and Mrs Smith once the baby was born.
Then his wife lost six stone and took hormone tablets to prepare her body for the pregnancy.
The IVF process involved taking an egg from Mrs Smith’s still-functioning ovaries and fertilising it in a laboratory – so it could be placed into Mrs Miles’s womb to grow.
Against the odds, it was successful at the first attempt.
And, on January 16 this year, Evie Siân Emma Smith was born at 7lbs 7oz by caesarean section.
Mrs Smith said: ‘Adam and I were allowed to both stay by mum’s side as Evie came into the world.
‘It was such an incredible emotional moment. I was so nervous that everything would go well for mum and for the safe arrival of our baby.
‘Adam saw Evie come into the world because of a reflection on the lamps in surgery and I just waited to hear that cry and burst into happy tears.’
Now the couple are going through the legal process of formally adopting Evie.
Mrs Smith said: ‘Adam saw Evie come into the world because of a reflection on the lamps in surgery and I just waited to hear that cry and burst into happy tears’
Because of British law, Mrs Smith’s parents are the legal parents of Evie, so the couple have to officially adopt their daughter
WHAT IS MAYER ROKITANSKY KUSTER HAUSER?
Rokitansky Syndrome, or MRKH (Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser), is a congenital abnormality characterised by the absence of the vagina, womb and cervix.
Women suffering from the condition will have normally functioning ovaries, so will experience the normal signs of puberty – but will not have periods or be able to conceive.
The external genatalia are completely normal which is why MRKH isn’t usually discovered until women are in their teenage years.
Rokitansky Syndrome, or MRKH (Mayer Rokitansky Küster Hauser), is a congenital abnormality characterised by the absence of the vagina, womb and cervix
Many women are able to create a vaginal canal using dilation treatment, which uses cylinder shaped dilators of different sizes to stretch the muscles.
However, if this is unsuccessful then surgery will be used to stretch the vaginal canal.
Following treatment women are able to have intercourse and can have their eggs removed and fertilised to be used in surrogacy. However, those without ovaries won’t ever be able to have children because they don’t produce any eggs.
It affects one in 5,000 live female births, according to an 1985 article in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine.