Getai star Liu Lingling: Controversial childbirth at 50 gave my health a boost

SINGAPORE - Baby at 50?  For local getai singer Liu Ling Ling, becoming a mum at that age has done her more good than harm.

Last month, she gave birth to a son, whom she had conceived through artificial insemination.

The news came as a shock to everyone in showbiz as she had kept it a secret - even from her family members - and many expressed concern over the health risks for both mother and child.

Other more vicious netizens slammed her for being selfish.

One wrote: "Why didn't you choose to adopt? Like that risk your own life and risk the baby's life too."

Another wrote: "So old, still so selfish.

"So old still give birth, who's going to take care (of the baby) when you kick the bucket?"

But Liu put on a brave face when she met reporters for the first time since the birth.

On Thursday, at a ceremony to mark the start of filming for her latest movie, local comedy Filial Party, she said: "Despite the stigma of being an older mum, my health has dramatically improved after I gave birth.

"In the past, I had to take medicine for diabetes and high blood pressure (conditions I inherited from my mother), but now, I no longer need them.

"I am in the pink of health so I want to tell everyone not to worry about me," said Liu, who will begin filming for the movie soon.

In Filial Party, she plays the mother of school security guard Beng (played by Christopher Lee), who is a contestant in a reality game show with a million-dollar cash prize. To win, Beng has to portray exceptional filial piety.

The movie also stars Kym Ng, Ann Kok and Irene Ang.

Ng was all praise for Liu, saying: "She's such a brave woman. You have to be very loving and courageous to have a kid (at this age)."

TIRING

But Liu admitted that motherhood can be tiring.

She wakes up at 5am daily to breastfeed her son and to spend as much time as she can with him before she leaves for work.

And her bundle of joy, whom she has dubbed Xiang Xiang, rewards her with his smiles.

Said Liu: "My son is very cute and obedient. He smiles at least 10 times a day. He gets that cheeriness from me."

Liu said in previous reports that she went through two rounds of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).

She became pregnant after the first round, but suffered a miscarriage in the seventh or eighth week of pregnancy. She also said she had spent at least $100,000 on artificial insemination procedures.

"Having kids is all about fate. No one knew I was pregnant.

"Old aunties were telling me to go to the doctor to have my big belly checked because they thought that there was something wrong with me," she said.

Having tipped the scales at 95kg, Liu now weighs 73kg.

But she wants to gain 10kg.

When complimented that she looks much better slim, she said with a laugh: "Now that I am skinny, I have no clothes to wear and that really bugs me.

"I think I look nicer when I am fatter. What if I slim down and people think I am Fann Wong, how?

"I don't think being pretty is good because being fat (and looking average), you won't be threatening to other women. People's wives will even let you go out with their husbands and they won't be wary of you."

Maternity leave, however, is a luxury she can't afford because of her age, she said.

Her domestic helper and her younger brother's wife help care for the child when she is at work.

Liu, who is worried about Xiang Xiang's financial well-being, said: "I don't know how much inheritance I can leave him at my age. So by coming back to work earlier, I can earn more for him."

On remaining secretive about her newborn, she said: "For now, I don't want to give him and my family pressure. I will take him out eventually. I accept that he has to face the world because I'm a public figure.

"If Michael Jackson can show his kids to the world, so can I."

For now, she is not revealing Xiang Xiang's surname because "it can be changed at any time even when he grows up".

She also declined to reveal who his father is.

Liu had said in previous interviews that she has been living apart from her husband for the last 10 years as he had moved overseas.

She declined to elaborate on the reason he moved and would only say that he was not in Asia.

Pregnancy carries increased risks for older women

Pregnancy carries increased risks for older women

In Singapore, it is rare for women aged 50 and above to have a baby.

Three obstetricians and gynaecologists The New Paper spoke to said they have not dealt with any cases.

The oldest mothers they have seen were between the ages of 45 and 48.

Women at 50 and above are less fertile, said Dr Lubna Harharah, an obstetrician and gynaecologist with The Obstetrics & Gynaecology Centre, a Singapore Medical Group clinic at Parkway East Hospital.

This makes it hard for them to become pregnant, she said.

Some women overcome this hurdle by going for in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), but the age limit here is 45.

Said Dr Lee Keen Whye, an obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Medical Centre: "At 50 years old, the risk of miscarriage is higher, with one in five women suffering it.

"The woman is also likely to develop medical problems like diabetes and high blood pressure."

With a higher risk, these mothers will need more invasive diagnostic tests, said obstetrician and gynaecologist at Gleneagles Medical Centre, Dr Choo Wan Ling.

Besides that, there are also risks for the baby, such as being born with Down syndrome and birth defects.

Dr Choo, a member of Surgeons International Holdings, a group of surgeons with different specialities, said: "There can be issues of baby's growth restriction and the separation of the placenta may necessitate a premature delivery.

"The chances of a successful vaginal birth will also be lower."

Moreover, there are concerns of whether these mothers can cope with bringing up a young child.

Dr Choo said: "The mother has to factor in that she will be more tired as it is challenging to keep up with a growing child."

On whether the problem of diabetes and high blood pressure can be solved by giving birth, Dr Lee said: "It depends on whether they are long-standing or gestational. In this case (Liu Ling Ling), the doctor must have controlled both conditions before starting the IVF programme.

"Otherwise, the IVF programme would have failed and miscarriage or premature labour would be higher."

Her secret pregnancy

February 2013

Liu Ling Ling loses 15kg while on a strict diet of only steamed food and vegetables. She says her dramatic weight loss is due to a health scare, but it is likely she was preparing her body for pregnancy. She had undergone artificial insemination the month before.

August 2013

She and other cast members promote their movie Everybody's Business. No one suspects she's pregnant. Actor Mark Lee reportedly said that during filming, she did not stop him from smoking in front of her and that she didn't behave like she was pregnant.

September 2013

Her pregnancy is revealed when she gives the Getai Awards 2013 a miss. A reporter from the Chinese newspapers calls her and learns that she gave birth the night before the awards.

She tells Lianhe Wanbao that the sperm donor is a 40-year-old Chinese man from Malaysia and that she spent $70,000 buying the sperm.

Hollywood stars who give birth in their 40s

Age 46

Susan Sarandon (now 67) gave birth to a son, Miles Guthrie, in 1992. At 43, she had her first child, Jack Henry. The father of both children is Sarandon's ex-partner, actor Tim Robbins.

Age 48

Oscar winner Geena Davis (now 57), who is married to Iranian-American plastic surgeon Reza Jarrahy, gave birth to twins Kian and Kaiis in 2004. Two years earlier, the couple had daughter Alizeh.

Age 47

Halle Berry, who is married to French actor Olivier Martinez, delivered a son, Maceo, earlier this month.

The US actress told CNN in April: "I thought I was kind of past the point where this could be a reality for me. So it's been a big surprise and the most wonderful."

Being an older mum has never been an issue for Berry, who had her first child with ex-boyfriend Gabriel Aubry in 2008 at 41.

Age 48

US actress Kelly Preston (now 51) and her husband, actor John Travolta, welcomed baby Benjamin in November 2010.

At that time, the couple was still grieving their 16-year-old son's death. Jett died in January 2009 after suffering a seizure.

Preston told People magazine that the baby was a "miracle" and had "given the house a renewed spirit and purpose".

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