Is a New Procedure to Delay Menopause by Decades a Good Idea?


Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

If you could have, would you have delayed menopause, by 10 or 20 years?

Because now, women age 40 and under can do just that.

This week, the pioneering British doctor who brought the first IVF baby to life, announced that his clinic was open to performing ovarian grafts to delay menopause by as much as 20 years in healthy women.

If that sounds sci-fi-ish, or even just fishy, it’s not.

Ovarian grafts have been available to young women undergoing chemo or undergoing hysterectomies for about 15 years, to preserve their ability to have children.

Now Dr. Simon Fishel’s ProFam clinic in Birmingham is making the 30-minute procedure available to anyone under the age of 40 who can pony up the approximately $5,000 to $10,000 fee for slicing off a bit of ovary and freezing it. When menopause threatens, it’s thawed and implanted in the armpit before menopause takes over, at an additional cost of about $4,500.

You keep producing your own hormones that keep you slim, youthful and juicy. But the consequences, any way you look at it, are potentially staggering.

It could mean that women who are already in peri-menopause or menopause may be the last generation or the next-to-last generation to experience menopause in their 40s or 50s. (The average age for menopause is 51.)

Soon, women will be postponing menopause until their 60s, 70s or even 80s.

The health advantages of doing that are considerable. Menopause increases the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, obesity and loss of libido, among other ills. Experiencing menopausal symptoms can be awful, even unbearable, for some women, and they can last and last.

And let’s face it, and the operative word is “face,” it’s the looking, feeling and staying younger factor that’s especially appealing, is it not?

Who doesn’t want to stay as attractive and youthful as possible for as long as possible? But what about the cost — and I don’t mean just the thousands of dollars.

So far, the meno-delaying procedure has been done on just a handful of women, and they’re thrilled. But no one has yet experienced what happens when the body produces its own flood of estrogen way beyond what, or when, nature intended. Could it increase the risk of breast cancer or ovarian cancer?

Plus, the positive effects of the ovary implant will wear off. Eventually, these women will experience menopause. And it won’t be fun when they’re in their 70s.

Or maybe not.  Maybe in the not too distant future menopause will be obliterated altogether. Women will remain fertile and youthful until death. Even women who are already in menopause may be able to get donated implants to reverse menopause.

Cosmetic surgeons will be out of business or rebrand as gynecological surgeons who spend their days slicing ovaries.

Botox and fillers will go the way of leeches and poultices.

Beauty companies will pull their anti-aging products off the shelves because women will no longer need them.

Or it could be that enough women will choose not to have the procedure so that none of that will happen.

They may decide against it because they can’t afford it — although it’s conceivable that government health care could cover it in an effort to lessen the burden of aging-related illnesses in women on the healthcare system.

But the opportunity for women to stay youthful until very old age is, I think, something of a deal with the devil. It’s submitting to the expectations of society and the desires of men for youth and beauty. Women already do that, of course, undergoing cosmetic procedures and purchasing anti-aging products.

Eventually, however, we give in to life after menopause. We accept the loss and move on to what comes next. And when the bloom is off, ripeness has its benefits. We become more of who we are and less of what we’re expected to be.

So yes, manipulating Mother Nature to improve life and prolong health is a good thing. It’s brought us amazing advances in science, medicine, health and longevity.