British women are to be given the chance of delaying motherhood by freezing parts of their ovaries.They will be able to ‘bank’ their ovarian tissue in their twenties and early thirties, when it is most fertile, and have it re-implanted years later.Fertility specialists are planning to open the first clinic in the country to offer the procedure, which could cost as much as £16,000, within the next six months.
At present it is only available in a few countries, including the United States, Denmark and Belgium, and so far just 19 babies have been born as a result.But experts claim the controversial treatment will soon become commonplace as it has been shown to be more effective than egg freezing and even IVF.
It involves extracting about a third of the tissue of one of the two ovaries which usually contains around 60,000 eggs.It is stored in liquid nitrogen in temperatures of minus 190c until the woman decides she is ready for children, when it is thawed and re-inserted into the ovary. Within a few months it should begin producing eggs.So far most of the women who have had the treatment have been cancer patients hoping to preserve their ovarian tissue in case it is damaged through chemotherapy.
But British doctors are planning to offer the procedure to other women who may want to put off having children for other ‘social’ reasons.Costs are likely to range from £5,000 to £10,000 to remove and store the tissue with another £6,000 to re-implant it. This compares with £4,000 for a cycle of IVF and £5,000 for egg freezing plus £100 for every year eggs are stored.
Experts say the ovarian tissue method is far more successful as it can potentially yield thousands of eggs against a maximum of 12 normally produced through egg freezing.Some world-renowned fertility specialists in America claim the success rates are higher than for IVF.
Dr Gedis Grudzinskas, a leading consultant in infertility and gynaecology, is planning to open a clinic in central London offering the treatment within the next six months.He said: ‘This technology is so much more efficient than we thought it would be. ‘If a woman is having cancer treatment there are few options. She can freeze her eggs but the quality of this technology varies.‘Women in their late 20s might consider freezing their eggs until they meet Mr Right.’
Once Dr Grudzinskas’s licence is approved by the Human Fertility and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority, British doctors will carry out the first operations under the supervision of an experienced team from Denmark. Some doctors believe that having the tissue removed early in life could impair a woman’s chance of having a baby.
Dr Gillian Lockwood of Midland Fertility Services, near Walsall, said: ‘In the case of cancer patients who’ve got nothing to lose it has great potential.‘But for social reasons I don’t believe it should be recommended. It could cause scarring or damage to the pelvis that could make it difficult to conceive naturally.’