A new procedure could delay the menopause for up to 20 years, specialists claim.
IVF specialists have launched a new procedure at a clinic in Birmingham which claims to delay the menopause for up to 20 years. ProFaM, the company behind the procedure, reports that 10 women between the ages 22 and 36 have already had the operation, which costs between £7,000 and £11,000.
It involves removing a small piece of ovarian tissue through keyhole surgery, freezing it, and grafting it back into a woman's body when she reaches menopausal age. This boosts natural hormones and delays the onset and side effects of menopause, as well as potentially prolonging fertility.
Officially, the menopause is the name for your last menstrual period. However, most of us think of it as the time leading up to and after final menstruation. Many women experience symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats, anxiety, a loss of sex drive, vaginal dryness, difficulty sleeping and memory problems. In the UK, the average age of the menopause is 51, but some women experience it much earlier or as a result of medical treatment.
Co-founder of ProFam, Simon Fishel, an IVF doctor and president of the UK Care Fertility Group, told the Sunday Times that, as women are living longer than ever before, it is "quite likely that many women will be in the menopause for longer than their fertile period. We are empowering women to take control of their own health by naturally delaying their menopause." He said that the procedure "could delay menopause for five, 10, or 20 years" depending on the age at which the ovarian tissue is frozen.
Other experts are sceptical, as a similar treatment of ovarian tissue transplants is already used to protect the fertility of young women before cancer treatment. In a comment for the Guardian, Richard Anderson, the deputy director of the Centre for Reproductive Health at Edinburgh University called the procedure "old news" when it comes to restoring hormone levels. "What is less clear is whether this is a safe and effective way of doing so."
If it is effective, Fishel believes that the procedure "has the potential to be of significant benefit to any woman who may want to delay the menopause for any reason, or those women who would have taken HRT, and there are lots of benefits around that," he told the Guardian.