Freezing eggs 'key to later families'

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Career women may be able to delay having children by freezing their eggs when young and having them re-implanted when they reach middle age, a scientist said yesterday.

Research carried out by Dr Robert Winston has shown that women could have fertilised eggs frozen in liquid nitrogen and then be re-impregnated, perhaps 20 or 30 years later.

The process would give middle-aged women the "ovaries of a 20-year-old" when they eventually decided to have their families.

Dr Winston told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend programme that the advantages of the scheme would be that women could choose to delay having children but would be impregnated with their own eggs rather than those of donors.

Using eggs taken from women when they were younger would also reduce the risk of babies being born with conditions such as Down's syndrome, he added.

"The most obvious new thing about it is that a woman may elect in her twenties to take the conscious decision to delay starting a family for perhaps 30 or 40 years."

He said that a prime example would be a young woman leaving college to begin a career as a lawyer, who decided to delay her family until her forties when she was more financially secure.

But the Christian Medical Fellowship warned doctors against "playing God". Dr Andrew Ferguson, a spokesman, said on the same programme: "Most of us become concerned when we are starting to interfere with the fundamental processes of nature.

"I think we do need to look at the accusation of playing God very carefully and, while I wouldn't want to rule this out completely, I would urge a great deal of caution."