The woman, now 27, was only 13 when doctors stored some of her tissue because she was about to have a medical treatment that likely would leave her infertile. It's the first time tissue was removed from someone so young and ultimately led to the birth of a healthy baby.
Born in the Republic of Congo, the woman was diagnosed with sickle-cell anemia, a serious blood disorder, when she was five. She was not identified by the doctors. At age 11, she and her family moved to Belgium and was so sick her doctors gave her a bone marrow transplant from her brother.
The treatment can severely damage the ovaries so the doctors removed and froze part of her right ovary when she was 13. The girl hadn't started menstruating but there were other signs she had begun puberty.
A decade later, doctors grafted four parts of the frozen ovarian tissue onto the young woman's remaining ovary and the transplanted tissue began growing eggs. More than two years afterward, she became pregnant. Last November, she gave birth to a nearly seven-pound baby boy.
"It was a very happy moment," said Dr. Isabelle Demeestere, a gynecologist and fertility researcher at Erasmus Hospital in Brussels. "I was most happy for (my patient) because she was afraid if this didn't work, there would be no other option for her to have a baby." Demeestere and colleagues reported details of the case in a paper published online Wednesday in the journal, Human Reproduction.
Women who had ovarian tissue removed and transplanted have previously given birth, but to date, none were treated in childhood. The transplanted ovaries have typically only worked for a year or two before being removed, Demeestere said.
"We didn't know what would happen when you transplant tissue (back) into a patient that is completely immature," Demeestere said. "But once I saw that she had started ovulating and her hormone profile was normal, I was quite sure she would get pregnant."
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