Infertility is a problem that affects around 50 million couples worldwide but for one couple, the difficulty of being unable to conceive is a thing of the past. At the end of May, a Durban woman gave birth to her miracle baby after 13 years of being unable to conceive. Ashlesha Raghubir, 34, was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure — a condition where the ovaries lose their ability to function normally before the age of 40.
What Is Premature Ovarian Failure?
Premature ovarian failure (POF) is sometimes known as premature menopause, but the two conditions aren’t the same. Women with premature ovarian failure can have irregular or occasional periods for years and still have the chance of falling pregnant. Women with premature menopause stop having periods and can’t become pregnant. POF is rare with less than 1% of the population having this condition, you are more at risk if you’re over the age of 35, have a family history of the condition or have had multiple ovarian surgeries. Women suffering from POF can have other health complication other than fertility issues. Due to the low levels of estrogen, they are more at risk of suffering from depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, heart disease, and dementia.
While treatment for premature ovarian failure would usually focus on addressing the estrogen deficiency, there hasn’t really been a treatment that has proved to fully restore the normal functioning of the ovaries — but platelet-rich plasma (PRP) might give new hope to women suffering from POF.
What Is Platelet-Rich Plasma?
PRP treatment involves taking your own blood and making it into a concentrated mixture that stimulating healing. In the beauty world, PRP is known as the key ingredient in the vampire facial and secret to youthful and beautiful skin. “Blood platelets are tiny components within the blood that normally help with clotting, and are rich in growth factors. We used it to release these growth factors into the tissue, which then stimulated the stem cells in the ovaries to generate new eggs,” says Dr Sagie Naidu, a gynaecologist, obstetrician and fertility specialist at the Durban Fertility Clinic at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital.
PRP is widely used in orthopaedic and sports medicine to relieve pain through the natural promotion of healing in musculoskeletal diseases such as arthritis, ligament sprains, and tears. PRP injections have been used for athletic injuries, resulting in healing, a rapid return to regular activities, and complete pain relief. Internationally, platelet-rich plasma has been used in reproductive medicine since about 2017 but hasn’t really been well know in SA — until now. Doctors at the St Augustine’s Hospital were able to help Ashlesha conceive after just weeks of undergoing platelet-rich plasma treatment.
It appears that this is the first successful pregnancy in South Africa using the PRP procedure. The treatment involved injecting platelet-rich plasma into the ovaries in order to stimulate the stem cells within the ovaries to generate new eggs. And if the success of Ashlesha’s treatment is anything to go by, this might just provide hope for South African women who experience premature ovarian failure. While this is a fairly new procedure and does require further long-term study. PRP does appear to present minimal risk and could be a viable option for many who suffer from tissue and musculoskeletal diseases.