After single ovarian transplant, woman gives birth twice

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Stinne Holm Bergholdt with the two daughters she conceived after ovarian transplant. Photo courtesy of Flemming Holm Bergholdt

Following a single ovarian transplant, a woman gave birth to two healthy children in two separate pregnancies—a first for the fertility technique that has been gaining ground among specialists, and may provide hope to women forced to confront potential infertility due to a battle with cancer. The case of Danish woman Stinne Holm Bergholdt, whose ovarian tissue was frozen prior to undergoing chemotherapy to treat Ewing’s sarcoma in 2004, was reported this week in the journal Human Reproduction.

In 2004, prior to undergoing cancer treatment, which would likely result in infertility, Bergholdt had the cortical tissue from her right ovary—the part of the ovary that produces eggs—removed and frozen using cryopreservation. (Her other ovary had been removed earlier in her life due to a benign cyst.) A year later, after she had beaten the cancer, six strips of cortical tissue were transplanted back onto her right ovary. With the assistance of fertility treatments, the ovary began producing eggs and Bergholdt soon became pregnant. She gave birth to her first daughter in early 2007.

In order to conceive again, Bergholdt expected she would need a second transplantation of her preserved cortical tissue. Yet, in early 2008, when she went back to her fertility specialist, Dr. Claus Yding Andersen, a professor of human reproductive physiology at the University Hospital of Copenhagen, she discovered that, far from needing another transplant, she was already pregnant for the second time. She gave birth to her second daughter in September 2008.

Giving birth to two children with a single transplant of frozen cortical tissue is a world first for ovarian transplantation, Andersen says, and Bergholdt’s story indicates just how powerful this technique may be toward helping women facing cancer preserve their fertility.