Women 'should freeze ovaries in their twenties'

Sarah Cassidy,Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 28 October 2010 00:00 BST

Women should freeze sections of their ovaries in their twenties to give the best chance of conceiving when they try to start a family in their thirties and forties, a fertility expert will say today.

Although some women have already chosen to freeze some of their eggs, storing pieces of the ovary guarantees thousands more eggs and a higher chance of having a baby, he will argue.

Dr Sherman Silber, who carried out the world's first full ovary transplant, said that women in their 20s should be thinking of having the procedure now.

Fertility experts urge caution, insisting that more needs to be known about the procedure's success rate.

Banking one third of an ovary would mean around 60,000 eggs could be captured in the tissue, which could then be transplanted back when the woman is older, Dr Silber says. Removing slivers of ovarian tissue leaves the rest of the ovary intact, so women can still try to conceive naturally if they want to, he argues.

Dr Silber said conventional egg freezing, which is offered at clinics across Britain, has disadvantages. Each round of egg retrieval may result in five to 10 eggs being collected; he argues that this is too few. "Maybe women are being misled into thinking one cycle of egg freezing is going to give them security – and that's absolutely not true," he said.

Freezing ovarian tissue is cheaper and leads to far more eggs being stored, he says. "A woman could freeze her ovary at age 19 and have a 19-year-old ovary aged 40," he said.

"We are in the middle of a fertility epidemic across the developed world and the reason is our society is changing. People are not trying to have children or are not even thinking about getting married until they are 35.

"Women who are 25 or 28, some of them are not that concerned yet and might think they will meet the right man in the next few years. But they don't know what turn their life is going to take.

"These women come to us aged 35 or 38 after they've broken up with their boyfriend of 10 years and they are worried about the future."

Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility Society warned that it was too soon to recommend widespread banking of ovarian tissue.

A spokesman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority said: "This is a relatively new procedure and is still being developed."

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