In radical women’s health news, IVF pioneer Professor Simon Fishel has unveiled an innovative procedure to delay the menopause by decades. Announced in The Sunday Times, this option is currently only available privately for British women up to the age of 40. Already carried out on nine women aged between 22 and 36, it goes without saying that there could be huge implications for later-life fertility, too.
Professor Fishel said: “If a woman hasn’t met the right man or woman or wants to advance her career, or for many reasons is not able to have a baby young or in her thirties, then she could run into problems — which thousands of young women are doing — of fertility issues as she starts to think about children later on in life,” before finishing: “If she has stored her tissue when young it gives some potential insurance.”
With a cut-off age the same as for IVF of 50 (or up to 52 in exceptional circumstances), the procedure delays menopause by triggering a release of oestrogen and progesterone. This works from freezing ovarian tissue when a woman is young enough, and it then being re-implanted years or decades later. He describes the process as releasing normal premenopausal hormones, which are then going to work more rhythmically with your body than a conventional HRT alternative.
As someone in surgical menopause and currently wading through the very tricky waters of balancing out hormones, a totally natural path hugely appeals (I may or may not have been crying at the doctors earlier, asking for a different HRT to try). I can’t put into words the crazy symptoms my off-kilter oestrogen has caused. The menopause is such an uncertain time with a ton of truly hideous side-effects if not managed properly, so any advancement to tackle that gets my vote. And while raising awareness in the process, something which GP and menopause specialist Dr Louise Newson is an advocate of. As quoted on her Menopause Doctor website, Dr Newson states “I am constantly surprised and disappointed at how little accurate information there is for women to learn about.”
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The major talking point so far surrounding this procedure is that the removal of tissue ensures an availability of thousands more eggs as compared to existing freezing techniques. An apparently simple half hour process, is this development a major breakthrough for the future of female fertility?
In terms of becoming pregnant, Dr Newson explains: “This technique is more about delaying the menopause rather than having babies later in life.”
She continues that: “Some women will prefer to have their children when they are older and more stable with their partner and often financially also.”
As an important medical point to highlight though, Dr Newson underlines: “However, there are numerous health risks for both the mother and the baby in doing this. There is an increased risk of high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in older women. There is an increased risk of miscarriage and also premature labour. There is also an increased risk of genetic abnormalities in the baby. Older women have a higher risk of complications during their labour also.”
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But whether it is going to provide another option for those wanting to delay motherhood or not, the announcement is undoubtedly ground-breaking. And as Dr Newson says: “This technique is more likely to be beneficial for women who want to preserve their fertility, for example those women who are going to undergo chemotherapy for a type of cancer which can affect their ovarian function.”
She does warn however, that “certainly this technique will not be available for all women. Many women who go through the menopause do so because their ovarian function reduces, and it would then not be appropriate to consider this technique.”
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Also pretty pricy, it’s estimated the procedure will be cost between £6,000 and £10,000. Wowsers. But the main takeaway here is a huge advancement in technology has begun, which ultimately goes hand-in-hand with more choices being made available to women, which here at GLAMOUR HQ we will always welcome.