For the first time in Germany, a woman has given birth to a child after removal and preservation of tissue from one of her ovaries. This course of action was necessary to avoid infertility owing to chemo- and radiotherapy. Andreas Müller and his colleagues report the case in the current issue of Deutsches Arzteblatt International (Dtsch Arztebl Int 2012; 109[1-2]: 8-13).
The majority of young female patients who need radio- or chemotherapy for treatment of a tumor express concerns about fertility. The retransplantation of frozen (cryopreserved) ovarian tissue is an experimental technique for restoration of fertility that has led to 15 live births worldwide.
The woman in question was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2003, at the age of 25. She was treated with chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy, but in 2005 the disease recurred and further treatment was required. To protect her fertility, ovarian tissue was removed via laparoscopy and cryopreserved. She was then treated with high-dose chemotherapy and remained free of disease for 5 years.
Because she still wanted to have a child, the preserved ovarian tissue was retransplanted into her right abdominal wall in 2010. After hormone treatment to stimulate follicular maturation and ovulation, she conceived by natural means. On 10 October 2011 she was delivered of a healthy child by cesarean section.
Ovarian tissue storage In some countries, it is now possible to store ovarian tissue (which contain unfertilised eggs). It then may be possible to extract these eggs at a later date, fertilise them with sperm and implant them into the womb. Well that’s the theory! In fact, this is an experimental procedure although in September 2004 a patient from Holland successfully achieved a pregnancy and healthy baby with this technique. Current, however, it is extremely difficult to extract the eggs and fertilise them and success rates are so low that this make the procedure impractical. However, with rapid advances in this field of medicine in the future it may be possible to achieve this. It is therefore not unreasonable to store ovarian tissue now in the hope that by the time you want to have a baby the technology would be available - it must be remembered that there is no guarantee that this will be the case.
Very few areas of the country will provide this service. Furthermore, although the removal of the ovarian tissue and storage is available on the NHS, any subsequent fertility treatment has to be paid for privately. Ask your doctor which is the nearest fertility clinic to you. For example in the Cambridge and Bedford Area this service is provided by The Bourn Hall Clinic, Bourne.
Deutsches Aerzteblatt International. “Removal And Storage Of Ovarian Tissue Enables Birth After Cancer Treatment.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 27 Jan. 2012. Web.