A leading fertility researcher has announced that a 43-year-old patient of his got her reproductive system to behave like that of a 25-year-old.

After more than a quarter century researching and treating fertility, Dr. Norbert Gleicher thought he had seen it all. That is, until Dwyn Harben walked into his office at the Center for Human Reproduction in New York City.



Forty-two years old and single at the time, Harben knew that one day she would want to have children. “Well I have always known that I wanted to have children on my own; I’m really not interested in having a partner,” says Harben, who is a banker. “I guess there were things I got busy with and I didn’t get around to doing things as early as I should have, but finances were also a concern. But…from the time I was eight or nine years old I always pictured myself with daughters.” So she asked Gleicher to either harvest her eggs and freeze them for when she is ready; or to fertilize those eggs with donated sperm, and freeze the embryos.



“I actually advised her against both of these options, because to freeze eggs and/or embryos at age 43 is not a very good option,” says Gleicher, who has published dozens of papers on reproduction and is the editor of the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics. “As [a woman’s] eggs get older, their ability to lead to normal pregnancy greatly declines. And that is a steady decline, but after age 37 or 38 that decline becomes very, very rapid. And after age 40 it’s what I call a waterfall.”



Gleicher advised Harben to wait until she felt ready to become pregnant, and to use donated eggs from another, younger woman when that time came. But Harben was insistent, and Gleicher’s doubts were confirmed: “As I had predicted the first cycle went very poorly. We had only one egg and one embryo,” he says. “We froze it, because she wanted to accumulate embryos for future use at some time.”



Harben wanted to try again. “He tried to talk me out of it, but I persuaded him that I’d really feel better if I tried at least one more round,” she says. “And meanwhile I did what any modern woman does, and I went to the Internet and started doing some research.”



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