Fertility specialists and embryologist, Dr Mahesh Bhana, Dr Sagie Naidu and Neville Moodley, with Ashlesha and Arun Raghubir and their newborn. Tumi Pakkies/African News Agency (ANA)
Durban - A Phoenix woman has become a symbol of hope for others, after she became the first South African to successfully conceive despite being diagnosed with premature menopause.

Ashlesha Raghubir, 35, and her husband, Arun, 41, struggled with infertility for nine years until they met Dr Sagie Naidu, the clinical director of the Durban Fertility Clinic, at St Augustine’s Hospital.

Raghubir, an administrator with a medical group, had previously consulted three gynaecologists and a fertility doctor.

“I was told I was not ovulating properly and that my only options were to either get an egg donor or adopt. This was devastating to me.”

Raghubir said the fear of not conceiving could have placed a strain on her marriage, but they maintained a strong bond.

She said she was referred to Naidu and had been placed on a three-month waiting list.

Raghubir said she experienced hot flushes, fatigue and absence of menstruation, and after a few tests, Naidu told her she had premature menopause from an undetermined cause.

He conducted a new reproductive procedure, using a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection to rejuvenate her ovaries and she conceived within three months.

Raghubir said when the pregnancy was confirmed, she and her husband sobbed.

“It was the best news knowing I was going to be a mother.”

Raghubir delivered her 3.42kg healthy baby boy on April 30.

“When I held him for the first time, it was the most amazing experience. I felt a sense of relief knowing he was safe and healthy.”

Arun said: “It’s such a great feeling, knowing you created such an innocent soul. It gives me a sense of purpose and a feeling of great responsibility. I am very ecstatic and truly blessed.”

Raghubir added: “Dr Naidu has been incredible.

“He is what every doctor should be. He was caring, attentive and reassuring.”

Naidu said: “This is a new intervention, since late 2017, in reproductive medicine. We have done PRP on a few patients already. This is the first case of a successful pregnancy in South Africa.

“It is a relatively safe and simple procedure, using the patient’s own platelets. There is no tissue rejection,” explained Naidu.

He said the birth was an important breakthrough in South African medicine and provided renewed hope for women who underwent premature ovarian failure.

Naidu said that premature menopause, medically known as premature ovarian failure, was a loss of normal function before the age of 40. It led to infertility and hypoestrogenism.

“This occurs in less than 1% of women. For the most part, women with this problem are unresponsive to any normal approach to try to help their fertility and their only hope of falling pregnant is by egg donation. Recently, some new approaches have become available.

“Platelet-rich plasma is an approach that has been used in many areas of medicine to try to rejuvenate tissues.

“Platelets are small components in their blood, that normally help with clotting, but they are rich in growth factors and cytokines.

“These are in little granules within the platelets and, when you use platelet-rich plasma, the goal is to release these cytokines and growth factors into the tissue, which then helps tissues to regenerate.”

He said the safety concerns in using PRP procedure were minimal.

“This is a simple and effective procedure, using the patient’s own blood which, when injected into her ovaries, regenerates her ovarian function.”

The baby has been named Ayush which means age, lineage and duration of life.