The Dominion Post

Doctors halt the menopause


Women can delay the menopause for up to 20 years in a medical breakthrou­gh being offered by the fertility expert who pioneered IVF.

The revolution­ary procedure could transform the lives of thousands of women by tricking their biological clocks into thinking they are much younger than they are.

There are clear benefits for women whose menopause triggers serious health problems, such as osteoporos­is and heart problems. It comes at a time when women are living longer than ever before, and many will find their menopausal years last longer than their fertile ones.

For millions of others, the appeal of delaying the menopause would be to reduce draining physical and emotional symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, memory problems, mood swings and anxiety. It could also be attractive to women who want to slow the effects of ageing on their sex drive.

The surgery, which takes as little as 30 minutes, could also extend their fertility although doctors insist the aim is to postpone the menopause, rather than allow women to have babies in their sixties.

The procedure, the first of its kind in the world, is being offered privately to women up to the age of 40. Nine British women aged between 22 and 36 have already undergone the surgery, which removes a piece of one of their ovaries. The tissue is then frozen at -150C.

The ovarian tissue will be held in an ice bank until the women reach the menopause. It will then be thawed and transplant­ed back into them, where it will kickstart their natural hormones – delaying the menopause.

One of the nine patients, a 34-year-old married mother-ofone who said she wanted to avoid having to take HRT in the future, said: ‘‘I have to say I’ve never felt any pain, and it seems quite miraculous that it’s something so straightfo­rward.’’

A 10th British woman, DixieLouis­e Dexter, has also undergone the procedure and had her ovarian tissue immediatel­y transplant­ed back inside her to avoid premature menopause.

The 33-year-old had a hysterecto­my because of the agonising symptoms of endometrio­sis, but had the pioneering surgery at the same time to avoid premature menopause. ‘‘Being able to delay the menopause has been lifechangi­ng,’’ she said.

The surgery is being offered by a company based in Birmingham called ProFaM (Protecting Trial patient Fertility and Menopause), cofounded by four world-renowned experts in reproducti­ve medicine.

Its chief executive and cofounder is Professor Simon Fishel, the IVF pioneer whose work led to the birth of Natalie Brown – sister of the first testtube baby, Louise Brown. Natalie later became the first woman conceived through IVF to have her own children naturally.

‘‘Women are living longer than at any time in human history,’’ said Fishel, 66, who has four children.

‘‘It’s quite likely that many women will be in the menopause for longer than their fertile period.

We are empowering women to take control of their own health by naturally delaying their menopause.’’

A version of the technique, called ovarian tissue cryopreser­vation, has already preserved fertility in women beginning treatment for cancer.

– Sunday Times

‘‘I have to say I’ve never felt any pain, and it seems quite miraculous that it’s something so straightfo­rward.’’

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