Ovarian graft the future of extended fertility?

Image via CJ Photography

The main photo is of my kids and their grandparents – will having kids later in life eventually wipe out the “grandparents?”

You might have heard last week, there’s the possibility of ovarian grafts to delay menopause and therefore ‘extend’ fertility. The technique that was initially explored for cancer patients whose fertility could potentially be compromised, has taken a new turn, or so it seems. This essentially means women could be having babies well into the years their body should potentially be ‘switching off’ fertility, rather than revving it up.

It’s a tricky one when it comes to fertility support for several reasons. On one hand, it is a wonderful gift to older women wanting to have babies. On the other, at what point do we stop forcing the point? Are we not happy with listening to our bodies? It seems, this one has me divided.

I see a lot of older women in the clinic and I’ve spoken about how we can preserve fertility here. By the same token, I’m on a crusade, to educate and inspire women to preserve their fertility, to scout out menstrual and reproductive issues when they are young and to set themselves up for long term reproductive health. Fertility begins to wind down for a reason – but that’s not to say that we all get a stamp on our forehead at 40 saying ‘closed for business,’ the reality is, some women are fertile well into these years.

I guess the best question to ask is this – if the body is showing signs of winding down, should we respect this? Dr Silber, a microsurgeon working at the infertility centre of Saint Louis, Missouri, suggests this can assist women in having babies almost into their fifties. ‘A young ovary can be transplanted back at any time and it will extend fertility and delay the menopause. You could even wait until you were 47,’ he says. Thing is, so does IVF. I guess we’ve accepted IVF as part of normal reproductive assistance, so is this just the next level?

One reader of this daily mail article wrote; “So if she has a child when she is 45 her own Mother may have had her at an average age say 29. By the time the child is school age, she will be 50 and the Grandparents will be 79 – loving but probably not hands-on type of grandparents. Take it to another generation – her child has her baby at 45. She will be 90 !!! and 95 by the time her grandchild reaches school. So effectively wiping out the role of a grandparent. It is selfish!” Marie Hants. UK.

She has a point.

So here’s my take. Women are best having babies in their 20’s and 30’s for many obvious reasons. Their body is geared to do so. Of course, some women do fall pregnant in their 40’s naturally and obviously, their body’s fertility is youthful enough to do so. Without this youth, it’s near impossible to conceive – it’s simply the bodies way of protecting itself.

I’m interested in your thoughts on this one. I know two things. Optimising reproductive function in your 20’s is the key to long term fertile wellness, BUT 40-something women can be as youthful as their 30 year old sisters – it isn’t really about age, it’s about health.

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