For child birth in maturity, freeze ovaries

October 28th, 2010
For child birth in maturity, freeze ovaries

A leading surgeon has advised that young females have minute portions of their ovaries frozen in order to avoid difficulties if, when middle aged, they wish to begin a family.

Dr Sherman Sibler, who carried out the world’s first whole ovary transplant in 2007, said that this technique has the potential to give a woman aged forty the fertility of an individual half her years. Costing about £4,000 thin slivers of ovaries can be taken out and frozen for the foreseeable future. Dr Sibler added that by removing a 1mm-thin graft does not harm the patient’s chance to naturally conceive.

His team in Missouri have taken out ovarian grafts from approximately 140 women. The treatment was brought about as a tool for patients to keep their fertility despite treatment for cancer. Due to women generally coming to him about delaying motherhood, about sixty women have undergone ovarian grafts who want to postpone pregnancy until when they are ready.

Urging women in their twenties to undergo this, Dr Sibler said that of his current patients “[t]hese women all 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.” Women should think about it earlier when they have more, better quality eggs. And when they do decide to have their own offspring, they would know that they have “a 25-year-old ovary” on hand for them. Dr Sibler claims that by freezing ovaries at this young age, “[n]one of these women really need IVF after this treatment.” He also says that the price for an ovarian graft was far less than going through the numerous IVF cycles which are “prohibitively expensive”.

But the amount of women using ovarian grafts to become pregnant is small. Since 2008, this clinic has returned eleven grafts with the birth of twelve babies. Across the world, 23 babies have born thanks to grafts in seven clinics. Frozen graft transplants produced fourteen babies, with a further nine coming from the result of fresh grafts from identical twin sister donors. No clinic in the UK is offering this service yet.

Although Dr Sibler describes the procedure as “robust” which only takes a few days training for a qualified surgeon to master, Tony Rutherford (who is the chairman of the British Fertility Society) commented. “If it’s performed in lesser hands it might not be quite as effective.” After calling for a “worldwide register” of graft operations, it is “[o]nly then can we give patients realistic figures about whether it’s going to work or not” said Rutherford.

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