Fertility and pregnancy * Women's health

Second "miracle birth" for infertile woman

Mrs Bergholdt and her babies Ovarian transplant allows woman to give birth

For the first time ever a woman has given birth to a second child after receiving an ovarian transplant.

The mother, Stinne Holm Bergholdt, underwent treatment for cancer that would have made her infertile. So she was given transplants of ovarian tissue that had been removed and frozen during her cancer treatment and then restored once she was cured.

She then underwent fertility treatment to help her get pregnant, resulting in the birth of her first child in 2007. But in 2008 she discovered that she had conceived a second child without any additional treatment, and she gave birth in September of 2008.

Commenting on the situation her doctor, Professor Claus Yding Andersen, said: "This is the first time in the world that a woman has had two children from separate pregnancies as a result of transplanting frozen/thawed ovarian tissue."

Dr Andersen said this case shows the potential benefits of this approach to treating cancer in women who might want to subsequently have children. Mrs Bergholdt's second child is the ninth to be born after the mother received frozen ovarian tissue in this manner.

Mrs Bergholdt was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma when she was 27 in 2004. Before beginning chemotherapy treatment, part of her right ovary was removed and frozen. Her cancer treatment was successful but, as expected, the drugs caused a menopause. In December 2005 six thin strips of ovarian tissue were transplanted back on to what remained of her right ovary. Her ovary began to function normally again and, after mild ovarian stimulation, she became pregnant and gave birth to her first daughter, Aviaja, in February 2007.

She returned to Dr Andersen's clinic in 2008 to start a second course of fertility treatment, but a routine test found that she was already pregnant naturally, and in September she gave birth to a healthy girl, Lucca.

Such has been the success of the treatment that she is now taking contraception to prevent a further pregnancy.

Dr Andersen said: "This showed that the original transplanted ovarian strips had continued to work for more than four years and that Mrs Bergholdt still has the capacity to conceive and give birth to healthy children. It is an amazing fact that these ovarian strips have been working for so long and it provides information on how powerful this technique can be. She continues to have natural menstrual cycles."

Mrs Bergholdt explained her surprise at her second pregnancy: "We thought we needed assistance like the first time. 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. 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 happy events are reported in the European journal Human Reproduction.

This article was published on Thu 25 February 2010

Image © Flemming Holm Bergholdt

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