Introducing Tamara, medical miracle baby

"It is a dream" said Ouarda Touirat, smiling at the cameras yesterday. The first woman in the world to give birth following an ovarian transplant cradled her new-born baby and added: "It is what I have always wanted."

The Belgian woman presented her daughter, Tamara, to the world's press less than 24 hours after her birth on Thursday night. She had made medical history after becoming infertile through cancer treatment in 1997. Doctors at the Catholic University of Louvain in Brussels removed one of her ovaries before the treatment began and froze the tissue before transplanting it back into her body seven years later. The success of the technique offers hope to thousands of women with cancer who may now be able to preserve their fertilityby banking their ovarian tissue before starting treatment.

Professor Jacques Donnez, who led the medical team responsible for the transplant, said 146 women under his care were having the same procedure. A second woman had had frozen tissue from her ovaries transplanted back into her body three weeks ago but it was too early to say whether she would recover her fertility, Professor Donnez said.

The development also raises difficult ethical questions as it brings the possibility of women extending their reproductive lives into their fifties, sixties or beyond. The professor ruled that out. "There are ethical difficulties. This technique must be reserved for young women with cancer. I will never propose this for a woman of 25 with the goal of re-implanting at 55," he told Sky News yesterday.

For Ms Touirat, 32, the birth marks the end of seven years of hope and despair. "I was crying at first, it's ... a big miracle," she said with her husband, Malike, 40, at her side.

The couple had been expecting their first baby when Ms Touirat was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1997 at the age of 25. That pregnancy had to be terminated because she needed chemotherapy and radiotherapy that would have been fatal for the baby anyway.

When she was declared cancer-free last year, the frozen ovarian tissue was thawed and reimplanted just below her remaining ovary. Five months later her menstrual cycle was restored and in January she became pregnant after conceiving naturally. When news of her pregnancy broke in June, she said: "I am ecstatic. I am over the moon. I can hardly wait."

Women with cancer have few options for preserving fertility. Men can easily have their sperm frozen but eggs do not survive thawing so well. Transplanting ovarian tissue therefore offers new hope. Researchers cut 12-15mm-long and 5mm-wide samples from one of the two ovaries and froze them in liquid nitrogen. "Several lines of evidence lend support to our assertion that the origin of the pregnancy was the autotransplanted ... tissue," the researchers wrote in The Lancet.

Kutluk Oktay, a reproductive endocrinologist from Cornell University in New York, was cautious. Although he was not involved with the operation, Dr Oktay has conducted much of the key research in the field. He said: "It cannot be proved with 100 per cent certainty [that the pregnancy came from the graft] because ovulation from the transplant was ...calculated from temperature but was not confirmed. Even though the woman's remaining ovarian tissue stopped working after the cancer treatment, it recovered and she ovulated three years later, which indicates it is possible that the native ovaries could have ovulated again to produce the baby."

Dr Virginia Bolton, a consultant embryologist King's College Hospital, London, and spokeswoman for the British Fertility Society, said: "This is wonderful news for women who face the terrible prospect of becoming sterile from life-saving cancer treatment. With this development comes the real chance for them of having ... their own baby."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Hampshire

£25000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst / Trainee Application Support Analyst - Essex

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Engineer - Hertfordshire -Large Established Business

£22000 - £28000 per annum + study support, gym: Ashdown Group: A large busines...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before