Thursday 22 August 2019

Menopause in deep freeze as surgery lets women cheat the body clock

Stock photo
Stock photo

Gabriella Swerling

The menopause will no longer be a barrier for women building their careers, a scientist has claimed, following a research breakthrough that will allow older women to have children.

The revolutionary procedure being offered by the fertility expert who pioneered IVF works by tricking women's biological clocks into thinking they are far younger than they are.

Ovarian tissue is frozen at -150C. It is then stored in an ice bank until women reach the menopause, when it is then thawed and transplanted back into the body. It then kick-starts natural hormones and delays the menopause.

The first surgery of its kind in the world is being offered by a Birmingham-based company called ProFaM (Protecting Fertility and Menopause), which has been co-founded by Arri Coomarasamy, Christiani Amorim, Yousri Afifi and Simon Fishel, four world-renowned experts in reproductive medicine.

Prof Fishel, ProFaM's chief executive and founder, offers the £6,000 (€6,570) surgery -which lasts just 30 minutes - privately. Nine British women aged between 22 and 36 have undergone the procedure.

One of the patients, a 34-year-old married mother of one who said she went ahead with the procedure because she wanted to avoid having to take HRT in the future, told 'The Sunday Times': "I have to say I've never felt any pain, and it seems quite miraculous that it's something so straightforward."

Dixie-Louise Dexter, who also underwent the procedure, had her tissue immediately transplanted back to prevent premature menopause.

The surgery was created to postpone menopause, which can trigger serious health problems, including osteoporosis and heart problems.

However, it can also extend women's fertility and could feasibly enable a woman in her 70s to have babies - although Prof Fishel said this would not be allowed for safety and ethical reasons. His upper age limits are 35 for freezing tissue for fertility preservation and 40 for freezing tissue for hormonal preservation.

He told 'The Daily Telegraph': "One of the reasons for the rising infertility rates is that women are not thinking about having babies until their 30s. If this procedure allows women to nail their career and feel that burden taken off their shoulders, and if by 40 they still want a baby but are not able to naturally, they can go back to their tissue which they froze at 30.

"Using that tissue means it's not considered that they're having a baby at an older age because the egg will be from 10 years earlier."

He said his youngest daughter is 22, and the procedure "appeals to her", so when she is aged between 25 and 30 he would perform the procedure as a "birthday present".

"The younger it's done, the longer you have the benefit and the more eggs are available," he said.

Prof Fishel's IVF work led to the birth of Natalie Brown - sister of the first test-tube baby, Louise Brown.

Natalie Brown later went on to become the first woman conceived through IVF to have her own children naturally.

Irish Independent

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