Scientists are currently developing a new technique to do just that! The pioneers in Greece are giving women who are just transitioning into menopause a second chance with fertility.
Already, three older mothers approaching the menopause have given birth following the programme. It involves a technique called platelet-rich plasma (PRP). This involves blood treatment normally used to help wounds heal faster. In this case it is used to stimulate tissue regeneration in older ovaries.
The scientists from the Genesis Athens Fertility Clinic, injected the PRP into the ovaries of 30 women between the ages of 46 and 49. All of these women had reached menopause. They found that the treatment was successful in restoring the periods of almost 70% of the women who were included in their trial.
In one case a woman who had not had a period for 5 years was able to restart ovulation. The team collected three eggs from this woman, two of which have already been successfully fertilized with her husband’s sperm. Her embryos are now stored and awaiting implantation.
How does it work?
PRP is made by centrifuging a sample of a person’s blood to isolate growth factors. These are molecules that trigger the growth of tissue and blood vessels and are widely used to speed the repair of damaged bones and muscles.
Once the PRP is obtained from the perimenopausal woman it is injected into her ovaries. This seems to have a regenerative effect in a large portion of cases.
It is not entirely clear how this technique specifically works. Some scientists suggest that the PRP may stimulate stem cells, that are precursor to specialist cells such as human eggs. It may be that the growth factors encourage such stem cells to regenerate tissue and produce ovulation hormones.
What are the implications?
Konstantinos Pantos, Fertility Expert, Genesis Athens Clinic said, “The treatment is a great way for women to have children in later life. Lots of women focus on their jobs and careers until they’re past the age of 40. But in the meantime, the menopause has arrived, and they find they can’t have children.” His words are borne out by statistics. In the UK the percentage of women giving birth who are 40 or older has quadrupled since the 1980s.
So far, the oldest woman Dr. Pantos has helped was 59 years old. Three women from the trial will be in their 70s before the children reach puberty.
Should there be an age limit on this kind of treatment, then?
Dr. Pantos feels that this is ultimately up to governments. He said, “My job as a doctor is to help couples and women achieve pregnancy. And if the women are healthy, then why not?”
This gives great hope for women with a low ovarian reserve and those who suffer the early onset of menopause. Another great advance for assisted reproduction!