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Woman Makes Medical History: Gives Birth Using a Frozen Ovary

( [email protected] ) Jun 11, 2015 10:37 AM EDT
A Congo national has recently given birth to a healthy baby boy using a frozen ovarian tissue that was removed from her own body when she was 13 years old, the USA Today reports.
Photo: BBC

A Congo national has recently given birth to a healthy baby boy using a frozen ovarian tissue that was removed from her own body when she was 13 years old, the USA Today reports.

The woman underwent treatment for sickle cell anemia when she was still a child; an inherited blood disorder wherein the red blood cells develop abnormally. If not treated, it can cause organ damage and severe pain. The NHS reported that the 27-year old Congo national's condition became too serious back when she was 13 years old that the doctors in Belgium decided to do a stem cell transplant to remedy her condition.

The transplant involved radiotherapy and chemotherapy and the faulty immune cells and blood were replaced with new ones. This procedure is typically carried out in women before undergoing a medical procedure in the hopes of still being able to bear a child in the future. 

During a stem cell transplant, the cells are taken from either a donor or from the patient herself. In the woman's case, the stem cells were taken from one of her siblings.

62 fragments of the woman's right ovary were removed and frozen for preservation. Her left ovary was damaged and resulted in infertility. However, her periods were artificially induced through drugs when she turned 15. During the time of the transplant, the woman was 13 years and 11 months old.

The transplant worked and the woman was eventually cured of sickle cell anaemia.

The woman was 23 when she decided to start a family. She then underwent a robot-assisted surgery to put back her preserved ovary tissues--four fragments to the left ovary and 11 to the right. Successfully, her hormone levels reached a fertile state just four months after the surgery.

The woman maintained regular periods just five months later. However, she was not able to conceive until after two years because of the infertility of her partner. When the relationship ended, she found a new partner and successfully conceived naturally in November 2014.

According to the Human Fertilization & Embryology Authority (HFEA), people who undergo medical treatment during their pre-pubertal stage may have issues with future fertility. Tissue freezing is "an option for young patients who are unable to produce mature sperm and eggs to preserve their future fertility."

"Where treatment involves patients of 16 years and younger, the decision of whether to store a child's reproductive material may rest with the parents. A practitioner must decide whether a child is able to consent to his or her own medical treatment without the need for parental permission or knowledge," the HFEA further states.