This is heartening news for any cancer patient facing a loss of fertility. For the first time ever, an ovarian transplant patient has given birth to two healthy children, one conceived in vitro, the other conceived naturally, after her own ovarian tissue was removed, frozen and transplanted back in.
A doctor in Denmark has reported in the medical journal Human Reproduction that 32-year-old Stinne Holm Bergholdt is the first woman in the world to have two children from separate pregnancies as a result of transplanting frozen/thawed ovarian tissue. Her first daughter, Aviaja, born in 2007, was conceived following IVF but her second daughter, Lucca, born in September 2008, was conceived naturally.
Even Bergholdt was surprised at the second pregnancy.
"We had an appointment at the fertility outpatient clinic to talk about the possibility of a second baby, but it turned out that I was already pregnant – naturally,” she told BBC News.
"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. It was indeed a miracle!"
The doctor, Professor Claus Yding Andersen, said Bergholdt’s ovarian tissue was continuing to function more than four years after being transplanted back into her body. More tissue remains frozen in liquid nitrogen, and could remain functional for as long as 40 years, he added.
The Washington Post details the procedure:
“Bergholdt had been diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma bone cancer at age 27. On the day before she started chemotherapy, doctors took 13 strips of ovarian tissue from Bergholdt's right ovary and froze them. After eight months of cancer treatment and another year of recovery, doctors reimplanted seven of the strips, or about 20 percent of an entire ovary.
“Bergholdt's ovary began working again after a few months, and she then had in-vitro fertilization to become pregnant. Nearly a year later, she gave birth to Aviaja, now 3. Bergholdt's treatment was paid for by the Danish health system.