Twenty years after having her ovary frozen, an Israeli woman has thawed part of it, reversed her menopause, got pregnant without IVF and has now given birth to a healthy baby girl.
She named her new daughter Eshkar, a word from the Bible that means gift.
The 46-year-old, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Tzvia, froze her ovary when she had cancer in her mid-twenties.
At that time, the idea of transplanting a healthy ovary back into a woman after she recovered from cancer was only theoretical. In 2016, a woman in Dubai became the first to give birth to a baby after having her ovary re-transplanted, and since then there have been hundreds more pregnancies around the world – although none have occurred after the freezing an ovary for two whole decades.
“She conceived spontaneously at 45 and now has a baby girl thanks to pieces of her ovary that were in liquid nitrogen for two decades,” her gynecologist, Professor Ariel Revel, told The Times of Israel. .
“I visited her at her home after the birth and cried with joy, thinking about how the hopes in a lab all those years ago actually resulted in a baby,” Revel added.
“Not only is this a world record, but it also raises the possibility that in the future, a woman could consistently conceive much older by freezing the ovaries in her twenties. Additionally, it suggests that it could provide a way to actually prevent menopause.
Revel, a leading specialist in gynecology and obstetrics, met Tzvia shortly after her cancer diagnosis. “She was told she needed aggressive chemotherapy which could damage her ovaries,” he recalls.
“She came from a religious background. [Jewish] her background and having children was important to her. I had just received permission [from ethics boards] to remove and freeze an ovary, and we removed her right ovary before her bone marrow transplant.
Ten years later, Tzvia asked to thaw part of the ovary and have it transplanted. She quickly conceived through IVF – as is the norm after an ovary transplant – and the baby resulting from this pregnancy is now nine years old.
“After the birth, for a few years, she didn’t come to see me,” Revel said. “Then she and her husband wanted another baby. The pieces of ovary we transplanted didn’t work anymore – she was past menopause. But I had other shards of her ovary in liquid nitrogen, so I pulled out a few and performed surgery.
The transplant, which he performed at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, was covered by Israel’s basket of state-funded health treatments.
Revel said he “reversed his menopause,” explaining, “When estrogen production stops, menopausal symptoms set in, but if healthy ovaries return, it restarts a woman’s period, makes her fertile again and triggers the production of estrogen.” The doctor predicted that Tzvia will not enter menopause for several years – as long as the newly transplanted pieces of ovary remain active.
After this transplant, Tzvia started IVF again. Two cycles yielded no pregnancies, but as she prepared for a third cycle, funding rules stopped her in her tracks.
While Israel’s public health system is generous in funding multiple rounds of IVF, it stops at age 45 — and Tzvia had just turned 45. “We started trying to convince the authorities to fund more cycles for her, arguing in a letter that her ovary is actually over 45 years younger, so she should be allowed,” Revel recalls. “Then, then While we were waiting for an answer, she called me and told me she had missed her period. I told her to run and take a pregnancy test – and she was pregnant.
“She cried tears of happiness – and so did I.”
Revel thinks the discovery that ovaries can be transplanted after such long stays frozen might prompt a rethink of the guidelines. Today, ovary freezing and transplantation are generally reserved for women facing serious illness. But he thinks it could be seen as a legitimate way for healthy women to extend their childbearing years.
Revel added that fertility aside, providing older women with their own frozen “young” ovaries could significantly prevent or delay menopause.
“It could actually prevent menopause, which is a major medical issue for women’s health because it leads to all kinds of medical issues,” he said. “It’s moot because today you can’t remove and save an ovary unless there’s a medical reason. But it could become very real.
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