Ashlesha Raghubir (34) was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (POF) five years ago, and was told by doctors that adoption or falling pregnant by egg donation would be the best options to have a baby.
She and her husband Arun declined this option as they wanted to have their own biological baby. So, when a new platelet-rich plasma (PRP) procedure for ovarian rejuvenation – the first of its kind in South Africa – resulted in a pregnancy, they were elated.
Premature ovarian failure (POF)
POF is a loss of normal function of the ovaries before the age of 40. Sometimes known as premature menopause, it occurs in less than 1% of women, says Dr Sagie Naidu, a gynaecologist, obstetrician and fertility specialist at the Durban Fertility Clinic at Netcare St Augustine’s Hospital who performed the procedure.
Even after being told that she wouldn’t be able to conceive since she wasn’t ovulating at all, they were determined to have their own baby. Having heard good reports about Dr Naidu and the Durban Fertility Clinic, they decided to make an appointment and consult with him.
Dr Naidu explained that POF results in oestrogen deficiency and infertility due to the ovaries’ inability to produce eggs. In these cases, women tend to be unresponsive to conventional approaches to improve their chances of conception.
“While it is a new procedure and its effectiveness in treating POF requires further long-term study, PRP uses autologous blood, meaning that it is from the patient herself, so minimal risks are associated with it,” said Dr Naidu.
The procedure is increasingly being used to successfully treat infertility in women in Europe and the US. Due to its international success rate, and because it is a relatively easy and safe procedure to perform, Dr Naidu, whom Raghubir described as having a "positive can-do approach", decided to go for it.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) procedure
The procedure involves injecting platelet-rich plasma into the ovaries. This then stimulates the stem cells within the ovaries to generate eggs.
Raghubir underwent the procedure in June 2018 and conceived just weeks later. When she went for her three-month follow-up, she says Dr Naidu could barely contain his excitement upon discovering she was pregnant. She, too, was in disbelief: "I could scarcely believe that I was finally pregnant; that must count as one of the happiest days of my life."
According to Dr Naidu, the pregnancy itself developed without a hitch, and Ayush was born on 30 April, weighing a healthy 3.42kg.
Given how difficult it has been for Raghubir to conceive, she and Arun consider Ayush their “little miracle child” and are overjoyed to have him in this world. “We are so grateful to Dr Naidu and the Durban Fertility Clinic for providing us with the benefit of this new procedure,” she added.
Dr Naidu believes that the new PRP procedure provides real hope for South African women with POF, and considers it an important breakthrough for reproductive medicine in South Africa. While the platelet-rich plasma has been used in many areas of medicine to rejuvenate tissue, it was only introduced in reproductive medicine in 2017.
Dr Naidu and his colleagues were “absolutely delighted with the outcome” of this reproductive revolution, and are happy they could make it possible for the couple to conceive and have their first child.