Wellness

Is Ovarian Rejuvenation an Effective Fertility Treatment?

Written by: Denise John, PhD

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Published on: May 2, 2024

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Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy, which uses your own plasma to try to restore the cells and tissues in your body, is widely used for orthopedics, dentistry, hair growth, and skin care. But its use for ovarian rejuvenation—a procedure where a doctor injects PRP directly into the ovary—is a new frontier in the fertility world.

It is both promising and potentially too good to be true: Studied effects include increased chances of conception, improved hormone regulation, and no response at all. It is too early to know definitively whether it’s worth your time and your money. But the early research is certainly intriguing.

The first preliminary studies using ovarian rejuvenation investigated its effects on perimenopausal women who were trying to conceive. This is still its primary use. But some women, instead of getting pregnant, experience interesting unexpected side effects. “Women were coming because they wanted to have a baby,” says Zaher Merhi, MD, a fertility doctor, of the patients who were coming to see him for ovarian rejuvenation, which he regularly performs. “When we did PRP, they said, ‘Oh my god, my hot flashes are gone’ or ‘I’m having a sex drive again’ or ‘I have less vaginal dryness,’” says Merhi. “This is when we found out that it’s [potentially] helping other things—not just egg quality.”

Merhi likes that PRP therapy uses your own hormones instead of synthetic ones. “Human growth hormone has been used for 40 years to improve egg quality,” he says. “PRP uses the patient’s own concentrated human growth hormone, which is placed directly inside the ovary.”

Preliminary research also suggests that ovarian rejuvenation also has the potential to improve ovulation and hormone regulation in women with PCOS and help women experiencing premature menopause to conceive. Merhi reports that 50 to 60 percent of his patients experience some benefit (e.g., better egg quality, restored periods after a woman has stopped menstruating, improved symptoms of perimenopause and menopause). But right now there’s no way to know exactly how a woman’s body will benefit—if at all—before the injection.

Reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist Fady Sharara, MD, also uses ovarian rejuvenation with his patients, but he’s more cautious—about both its potential effectiveness and about using the term “ovarian rejuvenation” at all. Instead, he calls it ovarian augmentation. “I don’t use the word ‘rejuvenate,’” he says. “I think this is the wrong term because people assume their ovaries are going to go back to when they were 25 years old, and that’s absolutely incorrect.” Before you invest your time and resources, he recommends that you consider a few things.

  1. It may not work. “This is experimental—there’s no guarantee it’s going to be of any help,” Sharara says. More research needs to be done to determine how it’s working and why it’s effective for some women and not others. “But before you consider moving on to a donor egg, after a few failed IVF attempts, you may want to try this,” Sharara says.
  2. Age and hormone levels play a major role. “The younger you are, the more likely you will respond,” Sharara says. “Once you hit 42 or above, the chance of PRP helping [your fertility] is practically zero.” Certain ovarian reserve parameters—AMH, FSH, and estradiol—need to be at specific levels. “You need to have some degree of ovarian reserve left for PRP to be of any benefit, and even then there are no guarantees that it will help,” he says.
  3. The effects are temporary. Its effectiveness wears off after three to four months.

You should always be under the care of a doctor you trust. It’s especially important for ovarian PRP therapy, Sharara says, because of the vulnerability that comes with the fertility journey. “Because infertility patients will do anything to try to have a kid, I worry about the impact of false advertisements on these women,” he says. “They’re trusting the doctor who’s telling them, ‘Look, this is ovarian rejuvenation. We’re going to inject this, and you’ll see you’re going to get pregnant.’ And then they’re disappointed.”

As always, do research and ask questions. Sharara recommends clarifying a few things with your potential doctor to start: How many of these procedures have you done? What’s your success rate? What does the published literature say about my chances of success? Getting as much clarity as possible up front helps set the stage for a more informed and transparent fertility journey.

 


 

This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.