After reading through a new study that could just possibly help boost fertility after menopause, we have many questions. The most important: Should we file this under “G,” for Getting Hopes Up Unnecessarily? Menopause has always been the final curtain on our reproductive lives, and the idea that science could possibly poke some holes in that barrier seems almost too good to be true.
The most surprising finding in this work is awakening the sleeping beauty, restoration of ovulatory function after menopause.
For the study, which was published in the journal Menopause, 12 women around the age of 45 in early stages of menopause, were given injections of platelet-rich plasma and hormones, called gonadotropins, in their ovaries. Eleven of them began menstruating again; six underwent egg retrieval followed by a procedure where the selected sperm is directly injected into the egg. One woman became pregnant.
“The most surprising finding in this work is awakening the sleeping beauty, restoration of ovulatory function after menopause,” lead researcher Dr. Chao Chin Hsu, from the department of obstetrics and gynecology at National Taiwan University Hospital in Taipei, told UPI. The preliminary results may allow women in early menopause to get pregnant through in vitro fertilization using their own eggs, the researchers stated.
“This treatment is another scenario for women in early menopause and those of impending ovarian failure to have better opportunity to conceive using their own eggs,” Hsu continued.
Not So Fast…
Not everyone is quite so optimistic. After reviewing the research, Dr. Jennifer Wu, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, pointed out limitations of the research to UPI. “The problem with stimulating periods and eggs is that the eggs may be there, but they may not be normal at that age,” Wu said. “Even if you do achieve pregnancy, it’s not a good pregnancy.”
Stephanie S. Faubion, the director of the Center for Women’s Health at the Mayo Clinic and the medical director of the North American Menopause Society, agreed this isn’t the time for irrational exuberance. “There’s not nearly enough evidence to recommend this treatment more globally right now. This is years away,” Faubion told Everyday Health. The procedure is currently only available to women who are in clinical trials, she adds.
Our Expanding Fertile Years
A much larger study does have broader implications. Looking at data collected from 7,773 women over 60 years (1959 to 2018), the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center found that girls are starting their periods earlier and the mean age of menopause increased by 1.5 years, from 48.4 to 49.9. This means the reproductive life span of women in the U.S. has increased.
“The increase in reproductive life span was driven both by increasing age at natural menopause and earlier age at menarche,” the researchers wrote. “Sociodemographic, lifestyle, and behavior factors were significantly associated with age at natural menopause and reproductive life span. Additional potential contributing factors may include improved access to health care, nutrition, and environmental factors.”