I Experienced Menopause at Just 16 Years Old — But Can Freeze My Fertility
While other teens are planning for prom, Stephanie Gallagher is fighting a disease that threatens her future ability to have children. Thrown into premature menopause, Gallagher, 16, suffered an auto-immune disease in which antibodies attacked her ovaries. Doctors say she has lost more than half her egg follicles over the past few months. Dr. Kutluk Oktay removed two-thirds of the outer layer of Gallagher’s right ovary, where microscopic eggs are stored. The tissue will be cut into pieces and frozen until she’s an adult and ready to become a mom — and then transplanted back. “I’ve always loved kids. I definitely want to have kids when I’m older,” said Gallagher, who lives in Pompton Plains, NJ. A high-school junior, she plans to become a nurse or child psychologist. While ovarian tissue is frozen for women with cancer before they undergo chemotherapy, Gallagher’s surgery is a first for anyone in the midst of autoimmune ovarian failure, Oktay said. Normally, young women are diagnosed with the disease after all their eggs have been destroyed. “You never catch it when it’s happening because it happens really fast — in a matter of months,” said Oktay, who is also a New York Medical College professor and pioneered ovary-freezing and transplantation.
NYMC faculty: Kutluk Oktay, M.D., professor of obstetrics and gynecology, cell biology and anatomy, medicine and pathology