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Woman receives first whole ovary transplant–and then conceives!

When Susanne Butscher was just 15 years old, she went through menopause. But thanks to her twin sister?s donated ovary, Mrs. Butscher is now the proud mum of Maja Charlotte Shasa Butscher, born last week in London.

Because Mrs. Butscher was suffering the effects of early menopause, especially osteoporosis, but was concerned about the long-term effects of hormone replacement therapy, she and her identical twin decided to try the pioneering surgery. The German-born British woman received the organ at a clinic in St. Louis, Missouri.

“At the time my primary concern was to treat my osteoporosis, but at the back of my mind it was also about fertility, even though I had been told so many times I couldn’t have children.? That was in January 2007. Soon, Susanne began ovulating. The transplant had been a success. “After the surgery there was this tiny flame of hope that I might have a child, but it was difficult trying to balance hope with realistic expectations.” That sentiment is common among women undergoing fertility treatment.

But when she skipped a period earlier this year, she feared the organ had failed.

Happily, she was wrong. Mrs. Butscher had conceived naturally, and her baby, who is named for the Roman goddess of fertility, was born by cesarean without complications?just 13 months after the transplant. A fellow surgeon said he was ?awestruck? at the success.

Although there are examples of women receiving strips of ovarian tissue, this full transplant and pregnancy was a first. Strangely, the British Fertility Society does not support transplants for treating typical infertility. Rather, they are suggesting it only be used when women have their own ovary removed and stored for later re-implantation following cancer treatment.

Of course, transplants couldn?t treat infertility caused by anything but ovary failure. And of those candidates, many women would have difficulty finding a tissue match. But why would the Brits be against pursuing ovary transplant when it is a viable option? I think this is such a hopeful story. And I hope that many more women are able to bear children by this procedure. My husband pointed out that technically, the eggs aren?t the mother?s. But does that matter at all? Certainly it doesn?t to the Butschers.


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