In a world first, an Australian woman became pregnant seven years after her ovaries were removed due to cancer. Doctors were able to graft frozen tissue on to her abdominal wall. The Brisbane woman, who is known only as Vali, 24, is expecting twins with her partner, Dean.
There have been 29 babies born using this procedure, but in those cases the tissue has been grafted back into the ovary or close to the ovary — not on to her abdomen, as with Vali. The cutting-edge procedure gives new hope to women who experience menopause after getting cancer.
Vali was quite an advocate for herself, having asked her doctors to preserve some of her ovarian tissue in case it was possible to use for grafting in the future. As she said, it was “pretty confronting” to find out she might not be able to have children at such a young age.
"It didn't really hit me until I was... 24 and I had to make some serious decisions about my healthcare then," she said. "I was really lucky with my doctors. I was able to have this opportunity even though I didn't really know anything about it."
The doctors in Melbourne double and triple checked Vali’s readiness for the procedure. As associate professor Kate Stern, head of fertility preservation at Melbourne IVF, said, “We checked the tissue again, checked with her surgeon, made sure that everything was OK and spoke with her oncologist, talked with her about the risks."
The first graft was done in 2010 and the second was done two years later. On top of the grafts, the doctors gave her some “gentle hormone stimulation” in lieu of full-on IVF.
The couple were told the pregnancy would be unlikely but they are now expecting twin girls.
“I’m pretty excited,” Vali said of the girls’ arrival.
She’s not the only one. As Ms. Stern said, “It's amazing how everyone is so excited for our patient. We've been doing this for a long time now, so it's taken a while to get to this point."
What a miracle!