A 24-year-old woman gave birth to a son on Tuesday even though she’d already started going through menopause.
Moaza Al Matrooshi, who lives in Dubai, was born with the blood disorder beta thalassaemia, which can be fatal. She had chemotherapy and a bone-marrow transplant in 2001 when she was 9, and because chemotherapy damages the ovaries, she had her right ovary removed and frozen first. Matrooshi is the first woman to give birth using an ovary frozen before she hit puberty.
Chemo did indeed make her left ovary fail and sent Matrooshi into early menopause, but last year, doctors in Denmark transplanted four slivers of frozen ovarian tissue onto her remaining ovary and one onto the side of her uterus. After the transplant, her hormone levels returned to normal, and she started ovulating and having regular periods within three months. To maximize her chances of conceiving, she and her husband Ahmed underwent IVF, and now they have a son.
Matrooshi told the BBC that it was her mother’s idea to save her ovary 15 years ago, even though no babies had been born as a result of ovarian-tissue preservation back then. Since then, there have been over 60 such deliveries, the first of which was in 2004. Women are born with all of their eggs, so a younger girl has a more plentiful egg bank than an adult woman, but the ovarian tissue is much smaller and surgeons weren’t 100 percent sure the procedure would be successful.
Her doctor, Sara Matthews, M.D., told the BBC that this is a “huge” step forward. “We know that ovarian tissue transplantation works for older women, but we’ve never known if we could take tissue from a child, freeze it and make it work again.”