February 24, 2010

Woman Gives Birth Twice After Ovarian Transplant

A Danish woman who had her fertility restored using ovarian tissue that was removed, stored, and then later reattached after cancer treatments, gave birth to two children, in what doctors are calling a world first.

Stinne Holm Bergholdt, from Denmark, was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2004 at the age of 27. Before she underwent chemotherapy, she had part of her right ovary removed and frozen. Her left ovary was already removed years earlier when doctors found a cyst that turned out to be benign.

Her treatment was a success, but the therapy brought on menopause. In December 2005, six thin strips of ovarian tissue were transplanted back on to what remained of her ovary. The ovary eventually began to function normally, and after a brief hormone therapy treatment to stimulate egg production, Bergholdt became pregnant.

She gave birth to her first daughter in February 2007. She then returned to the fertility clinic in 2008 to seek out in-vitro fertilization in the hope of conceiving again. But a pregnancy test showed that she was already pregnant through natural means, and in September 2008, she gave birth to her second daughter.

Seven other children around the world have been born using the cryopreservation technique, but Bergholdt is the first woman to give birth to two children. She now has to use "pregnancy prevention measures" to avoid another pregnancy. In a press release, she described her experience as "a miracle."

"When I found out I was pregnant for the first time I was of course very happy and excited -- but also very afraid," she said. "I found it very hard to believe that my body was really working again."

"The second time it was quite a surprise to find out I was pregnant since we hadn't been working on it -- we thought we needed assistance like the first time... It was a very nice surprise to find out that my body was now functioning normally and that we were having a baby without having to go through the fertility treatment," she explained.

Bergholdt's case, and story, was published by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) in its journal Human Reproduction. It is being hailed as a breakthrough for young women whose hope of one day becoming mothers could be wrecked by cancer therapy in their reproductive years.

Bergholdt's physician, Claus Yding Andersen, a professor at the University Hospital of Copenhagen, told AFP the "results support cryopreservation of ovarian tissue as a valid method of fertility preservation and should encourage the development of this technique as a clinical procedure for girls and young women facing treatment that could damage their ovaries."

Bergholdt said she and her husband have not decided whether they want more children or not. Right now she has two small bundles that need a lot of attention. "But maybe in a couple of years we might think about it again,"


Image Caption: This is Stinne Holm Bergholdt holding her two daughters, Aviaja (left) and Lucca, who were conceived after an ovarian transplant. Credit: Flemming Holm Bergholdt (Stinne's husband)


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