Baby Evie has a lot to smile about. She is one of only two babies in the world born through a specialised treatment following her mother’s infertility after cancer treatment.
Jodie Dwyers, 29, was left infertile after she was treated for Follicular Lymphoma at the age of 23.
The young woman and her husband Aden, who are both teachers from Traralgon in country Victoria, decided to try IVF ahead of Jodie’s ‘severe and intense’ treatment for the life-threatening illness.
The couple had planned to have children but the IVF failed to produce any eggs which could have been frozen.
“I thought.. that’s it; that was our only hope,” Jodie told Daily Mail Australia.
But hope came again in the form of an experimental technique involving removing ovarian tissue which is then frozen and later stimulated to produce eggs fertilised through IVF.
While pregnancies have occurred with ovarian tissue being later grafted back into the same position, Jodie’s pregnancy followed the tissue being grafted into the abdominal and pelvic walls.
After 10 months and five IVF cycles for Jodie and Aden, the couple were ecstatic to fall pregnant.
At 14 weeks the happy parents-to-be told their family.
On Christmas Day last year, Jodie gave her parents a picture book with an ultrasound photo slipped in behind the front cover.
“There was tears all round, it was really emotional,” Jodie said.
After a smooth pregnancy, baby Evie was born on May 16, six weeks premature.
“She’s changed our lives completely,” Jodie said, “you look at her and you just have to smile.”
“Now we have a family function and it’s like pass the parcel, everyone wants to hold this miracle baby that shouldn’t really be here but is,” Jodie said.
Baby Evie’s birth was announced in Canberra on Wednesday at the annual scientific meeting of the Fertility Society of Australia as only the second baby to be born from ovarian tissue grafted into abdominal and pelvic walls.
Associate Professor Kate Stern, Head of Fertility Preservation at Melbourne IVF and the Royal Women’s Hospital, said the innovative technology was first used in 2013 when a Melbourne woman had twins, seven years after her ovaries were removed during cancer treatment.
The professor said now with a second successful pregnancy, ovarian tissue grafting provided a realistic opportunity for women to have a baby after being treated for cancer that left them infertile either due to the toxic effects of treatment or the surgical removal of reproductive organs.
She said while adult women may sometimes have the opportunity to freeze eggs prior to cancer treatment for fertility preservation, ovarian tissue is the only option for pre-pubertal girl.
If Jody and Aden wish to fall pregnant again, they would need to undergo IVF treatment again, using the tissue that has already been grafted into Jodie’s abdominal and pelvic walls, as the supply of tissue she had frozen in storage was used during Evie’s conception.
“We don’t know what the life expectancy of the tissue is so we’ll keep going until the tissue stops being viable and until we run out of money,” Jodie said.
“If I did fall pregnant again, it would be another normal pregnancy afterwards.”