Could the menopause really be reversed?

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It’s hard not to get excited about headlines shouting that “Scientists ‘REVERSE’ menopause: Women who’d not had a period in five years are now menstruating again after their ovaries were rejuvenated” – but does it really mean what it claims? Will the menopause be a thing of the past? Will women be able to conceive naturally later in life?

The story was originally reported in New Scientist and concerns research carried out by specialists at a Greek fertility clinic, Genesis Athens. The team found that a blood treatment,  platelet-rich plasma, or PRP, which is most often used to help wounds heal faster, could also have an impact on ovaries. They injected PRP into the ovaries of older women and found that it appeared to rejuvenate them. They say they have managed to “re-start” periods in women who are menopausal, one of whom had her last period five years before. Note the ONE!

It is potentially exciting, but this is still at an experimental stage, and more work will need to be done to prove that this is effective and that it is a safe treatment which should be available more widely.  You can read more about it here. You can find comments from Professor Geeta Nargund about her concerns about this technique here.

Age and fertility

I happened to come across two articles about age and fertility recently; one focusing on a male fertility specialist who was freezing sperm for men who were worried about the age-related decline in male fertility and the other quoting a fertility author and psychologist who insisted that claims about an age-related decline in female fertility were false and outdated.  They were both rather depressing, albeit for very different reasons.

There is really no need for men to be freezing their sperm at the age of 30 as the first article suggested Yes, it is true that male fertility does decline with age but not in remotely the same way that female fertility does.  The specialist quoted in the article implied that men were rushing to his clinic to freeze their sperm because they were so worried about this – rather useful PR for his sperm freezing business, but whether it’s entirely true is another matter…

The second article, denying the age-related decline in female fertility, was far more worrying as it appeared to be based partly on the fact that the author herself had given birth in her forties.   She claimed that the decline in fertility after the age of 35 was a “myth”  and “outdated” as fertility did not really drop off until women were in their forties.

I’m sure many of us would love to believe that female age-related fertility is a myth, but the fact that some women successfully get pregnant and give birth in their forties doesn’t alter what happens to our ovaries. You need only to look at the most recent IVF success rates published by the HFEA to see very clearly how age affects fertility – should you have any doubts, I’ve included them below.

 IVF SUCCESS RATES BROKEN DOWN BY AGE 

  • 32.2% for women under 35  (32.3%)
  • 27.7% for women aged 35-37  (27.2%)
  • 20.8% for women aged 38-39  (19.1%)
  • 13.6% for women aged 40-42  (12.7%)
  • 5.0% for women aged 43-44  (5.1%) 
  • 1.9% for women aged 45+  (1.5%)