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New medical procedure to delay menopause and extend a woman’s fertility

Research 6 Aug 2019
Group of middle aged women in bush

Jean Hailes endocrinologist Dr Sonia Davison has warned that women "cannot rely" on a costly experimental medical procedure from the UK to prolong their fertility or delay menopause.

News outlets report that a London-based company, ProFam, is offering women keyhole surgery to remove some of their ovarian tissue, which is then frozen to preserve it. When a woman reaches menopause, the frozen tissue can be transplanted back into the body to restore falling hormone levels.

The procedure is said to delay the onset of bothersome menopause symptoms such as hot flushes, mood swings, sleep problems and loss of sex drive, as well as reduce a woman's risk of developing other chronic diseases brought on by menopause, including heart conditions and osteoporosis.

It is claimed that the procedure can also prolong a woman's fertility by kick-starting her natural hormones, essentially tricking the biological clock into thinking it's younger than it actually is.

Although in its early stages, the new medical procedure has not yet resulted in any cases of prolonged fertility or delayed menopause in humans, says Dr Davison, who is also president-elect of the Australasian Menopause Society.

Dr Davison says while the procedure sounded "scientifically viable and may eventually result in pregnancies in older women or delayed menopause", she said effective menopause treatments were already available.

"There are already effective strategies for the treatment of bothersome menopausal symptoms such as menopause hormone therapy [MHT, formerly known as hormone replacement therapy or HRT]," she said.

"When appropriate these strategies should be considered, rather than relying on unproven or costly experimental technology".

The cost of ProFam's surgery starts at £6,000 ($A10,700).

Dr Davison said women who were drawn to the possibility of increasing their window of fertility also needed to be aware of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease or blood clots in the veins by conceiving at an older age.

"At present, pregnancy is best achieved for women in their twenties or thirties," she said. "However, for women who are wanting to conceive later in life, it is recommended they speak with a fertility specialist about the current options available to maximise their chances of future pregnancy, such as egg freezing."

Dr Davison suggested that women wanting to learn more about managing menopause visit evidence-based sources of information, such as the websites of the Australasian Menopause Society or Jean Hailes for Women's Health.