For many women, fertility problems are just a way of life. The Centers for Disease Control states that 10 percent of women between the ages of 15-44 have a difficult time becoming pregnant or retaining their pregnancy. That is 6.1 million people just in the United States alone. Women are also delaying the age in which they give birth and waiting longer than they ever have to become mothers.
In 2013, the average age for a woman to become a mother was age 26. Since 1980, this is an increase of 3.3 percent from when the average age was 22 years old. And many women are also waiting until they are better established and well into their mid or late thirties to become mothers. While women are still able to conceive naturally even into their forties, it does become more difficult. With fertility treatments so expensive, a lot of women with fertility problems feel they have very few choices available to them. But a new study has just given a lot of women hope.
Scientists have just discovered evidence showing that ovaries can actually grow new eggs. What we have always understood until now is that the number of eggs a woman is born with is the same number you will always have. This new study shows that may not actually be the case. This is very exciting, and not just for women with fertility problems. It also impacts women who are going through menopause or who are post-menopause.
In this study, cancer patients were given a chemotherapy drug called ABVD and it was discovered that afterwards these women had a compellingly larger density of eggs than other women that were their equal in age. Evelyn Telfer, the head researcher of this study, was surprised at this side effect.
“This was something remarkable and completely unexpected for us. The tissue appeared to have formed new eggs. The dogma is that the human ovary has a fixed population of eggs and that no new eggs form throughout life.”
Since the majority of chemotherapy treatments cause fertility problems, the original reason this study was conducted was simply to look at why ABVD didn’t cause this issue. In their research, they took 10 women with no health issues and performed ovarian biopsies. They also looked at 11 women that had Hodgkin lymphoma and took ovarian biopsies of them as well. What they found was shocking.
Far from having fertility problems, the women who had been treated with ABVD had from double to four times the density of eggs in their ovaries when compared with the healthy women in the study. Not only was the density of eggs higher, but the eggs also appeared younger than they should. Telfer noted that the eggs seemed more pre-pubescent than adult even.
Does this mean that women will soon be able to take ABVD in order to achieve greater fertility? Not just yet. As this was one small study, more research will need to be conducted in the future in order to determine just how viable ABVD is in treating fertility issues.
Evelyn Telfer has already presented her team’s new evidence to a conference in July held by the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology. It is certain that there will be further studies conducted to see just what role ABVD plays on a woman’s ovaries. As Karolinska University Hospital’s Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg noted, this is an incredible discovery that throws everything we thought we knew about ovaries up in the air.
“It suggests that the ovary is indeed a more complex and versatile organ than we have been taught, or that we expected, with an inherent capacity of renewal.”
While Telfer has prudently suggested that we should be cautious about this first study when it comes to “jumping to clinical applications,” this news is certain to spark the interest of women all over the world who feel that they have just been given more hope when it comes to their goal of successfully achieving pregnancy.
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