How old is too old to have a baby?
In what is being called a medical miracle, science has struck another blow against the female body clock with the successful pregnancy of a woman who underwent a rare ovarian tissue transplant.
The potential for the procedure is enormous. It means that a woman’s fertility could be preserved “indefinitely”. It could mean that menopause could be avoided altogether, and that women could be ovulating in their 50s and 60s. And falling pregnant.
But Dr Lynn Burmeister (pictured right) from Monash Medical Centre told The Hoopla today that the procedure will, for the moment, only be available for medical – not social – reasons.
“This is a new frontier for medicine and for IVF. It’s a brave new world,” she said.
Dr Burmeister oversaw the rare procedure on the now 44 year old woman who is six weeks pregnant.
Diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37, the woman underwent surgery to have a wedge of her healthy ovary removed and frozen so she could start chemotherapy, which would have damaged her chances of reproduction.
In April this year the woman, now cancer free and married, returned to the Monash Medical Centre where the healthy tissue was re-implanted and four months later, her ovaries started working again.
“For the moment this procedure is for cancer sufferers or women at risk of early menopause, or women with damaged ovaries,” Dr Burmeister said.
“Unless there is a medical reason, I would discourage women from seeking this treatment (so social reasons).”
The woman is only the 19th woman in the world and the first in Australia to undergo the transplant.
Professor Gab Kovacs, of the Monash clinic told The Age: The whole concept of using it for social reasons doesn’t sit comfortably with me, so I’m not advocating it for that, but is might have a place in preventing diseases that come with menopause, such as osteoporosis.
Dr Burmeister again: “But potentially in the future we will face the ethical considerations of women having babies in their 50s and 60s. Right now our cutoff for fertility treatment is 52, because that’s the average age of menopause, but potentially women could be ovulating in their 50s and 60s.”