extend fertility, extending fertility, ovary transplants
Kyle Ericson/AP
Identical twin sisters Stephanie Yarber, left, and Melanie Morgan, of Tuscumbia, talk during a
break in a news conference on Thursday, April 22, 2004, at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield,
Morgan donated an ovary to her twin sister Yarber.

First Baby Born From Completely Transplanted Ovary

December 12, 2008 01:46 PM
by Isabel Cowles
The birth of the first baby born from a fully transplanted ovary offers new possibilities for women hoping to extend fertility.

Transplanted Ovary Produces Healthy Baby

In November, a woman gave birth to the first baby ever to come from an entire transplanted ovary.

The mother, who lost her fertility at age 15 due to premature menopause, underwent a successful transplant of her twin sister’s ovary. Now nearly 40, she was able to conceive and give birth to a healthy child.

According to the BBC, the mother had not intended to become pregnant; she only hoped that the transplanted ovary would ease the symptoms of premature menopause and restore a normal menstrual cycle.

Reuters reports that several other women have undergone partial ovary transplants, resulting in some pregnancies; however, menopause generally occurs within 3 years.

The implications of complete ovary transplants are far-reaching and, in some ways, controversial. Women facing medical treatments that could threaten their eggs, such as chemotherapy, could benefit highly from the process and extend their fertility, said Dr. Sherman Silber of the Infertility Center of St. Louis, who performed the transplant. 

Silber also noted that many healthy women might choose to extract an ovary in their 20s or 30s in order to prolong their fertility. However, some doctors do not endorse that option. For example, doctors at The British Fertility Society support ovary transplants only in the case of radiotherapy or chemotherapy treatment. In addition, research has not yet confirmed that a entire ovary will still be viable after it has been frozen.

Background: Freezing eggs, extending fertility

Egg freezing is another method of extending fertility that has proven both scientifically challenging and controversial for many of the same reasons as ovary preservation.

Dr. Michael Tucker, scientific director at Georgia Reproductive Specialists in Atlanta, the clinic credited with producing the first baby from a frozen egg in the United States, told The New York Times in 2004, “The joke is that anyone can freeze eggs, but can you thaw them, fertilize them and actually make babies from them?”

Initially, the process was only offered to women whose fertility was threatened by chemotherapy or illness. But since 2004, egg freezing has been an available, if expensive, way of extending fertility for healthy women who intend to become pregnant later in life. Extend Fertility, the first company to offer egg-freezing technology, targets urban, professional women interested in starting families after establishing careers or pursuing advanced degrees.

Reference: Ovarian Transplant Report and Fertility Issues

Silber has released a report on the ovarian transplant is available through The New England Journal of Medicine titled "Successful Pregnancy after Microsurgical Transplantation of an Intact Ovary"

Many potential treatments are available for women facing infertility. The findingDulcinea Fertility Issues Web Guide offers information about the causes of infertility, plus details about fertility drugs, in vitro fertilization and other options for women with medical or age-related fertility complications.

Most Recent Beyond The Headlines