London - Healthy young women should be able to freeze their ovaries until they are ready for motherhood, experts said.
They described the operation as “straightforward” and “uneventful”, saying that almost 40 babies have been born from pieces of ovary that were preserved in liquid nitrogen.
The leading fertility doctors said it was time the £8 000 (about R144 000) technique was more widely used.
A handful of clinics do ovarian tissue freezing in the UK but they usually treat cancer patients.
In an article in the Lancet medical journal, however, the fertility doctors said it was now time to allow healthy young women to put an ovary – or a piece of ovary – on ice.
The tissue would remain there until the woman is ready to start a family. It would then be thawed and put back in her body.
British women already have the option of freezing eggs for medical and non-medical, or lifestyle, reasons. But collecting eggs to store for use later can be a lengthy process and when the woman is ready to have a baby, she will need IVF. In contrast, taking ovarian tissue means a large number of eggs is collected quickly, and after the tissue is put back in the woman, she can try to get pregnant naturally.
But critics say the operation could damage a woman’s fertility and that while cancer patients have few other options, the risks are too great for healthy women.
One of the article’s authors, Dr Sherman Silber, of St Luke’s Hospital in Missouri in the US, said: “Replacement of ovarian tissue requires surgery and might seem more onerous than egg retrieval but it is a straightforward and uneventful procedure.
“With freezing ovarian tissue, a woman doesn’t need IVF and her fertility ten or 15 or 20 years from now will be the same as if she was a young women. It has tremendous outcomes.” Dr Silber, one of the few doctors to perform the operation simply to allow healthy women to delay motherhood, said the frozen tissue could be transplanted back at any time – even 50 years later. The operation does not damage fertility, he added.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Gillian Lockwood, director of Midland Fertility Services, said ovarian tissue freezing can be useful for cancer patients who in some ways “have nothing to lose”, but that it should not be used to allow healthy women put motherhood on ice. - Daily Mail