Pregnancy

This Woman Just Had The World’s First Baby Conceived With An Ovary Frozen During Childhood

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fertility doctorScience is the coolest thing in the world. A woman in Belgium has just become the first woman ever to give birth to a baby born from a frozen ovary harvested when she was a child, and this could be big news for preserving women’s fertility in the face of extreme medical treatments.

According to the BBC, the woman was diagnosed with severe sickle cell anemia when she was just five years old. At 13, she underwent a bone marrow transplant with marrow donated from her brother, who was a genetic match. That was a lucky and life-saving treatment, but it required her to be given chemotherapy before the transplant to keep her body from rejecting the marrow. Because chemotherapy can stop ovaries from functioning, doctors at the time decided to remove and freeze one of her ovaries for later. A baby had not yet been born from a frozen ovary, but hey, it’s worth a shot, right?

The transplant saved her life, but at 15 her one remaining ovary stopped working, leaving her effectively infertile and in menopause. At 25, the woman decided she wanted to try for a baby, so doctors thawed the ovary that had been removed when she was 13 and grafted parts of it onto the nonfunctional ovary that was still in her body. Five months later, she started menstruating.

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(Via Giphy)

The woman was able to conceive naturally, as though none of this had ever happened, and at the age of 27 she delivered a healthy baby boy.

The woman has chosen to remain anonymous, but her doctor, Dr. Isabelle Demeestere, says the success of the procedure could mean big things for preserving the fertility of children and young people facing treatment for things like lymphoma and leukemia.

Professor Adam Balen of the British Fertility Society said the success of this transplant was a significant advance.

“One would anticipate that young ovaries should have lots of eggs in them, the concern was whether those eggs might develop to maturity, if the ovarian tissue was taken at such a young age and frozen and then re-implanted,” he told the BBC. “So, this is proof of that concept … it’s very important information.”

The doctors both say that this is a significant achievement, but more research is necessary to see how early an ovary can be removed and still be functional. This woman was 13 and had not yet started menstruating, but she was still near puberty.

Dr. Demeestere says thousands of women have had ovaries frozen to attempt to preserve fertility like this, and in her clinic about 20 percent of the people undergoing the procedure have been children.

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