Infertility: Women Can Now Freeze Their Ovaries -- Would You?

Would you freeze your ovaries to delay your biological clock? Not your eggs, your ovaries. A procedure that is already available in the United States is poised to become available to British women within the next six months, the Daily Mail reported.

Only 19 babies have been born as a result of ovarian tissue freezing, and the procedure is only available in a few countries, including the U.S. The procedure involves freezing a piece of the ovary. Dr. Sherman Silber, director of the Infertility Center of St. Louis, explained to Forbes:

You remove the 1-millimeter outer layer of the ovary, the cortex, which contains all the eggs, and freeze these flaps of tissue, preserving the eggs and hormone function in a youthful state. Then, some years later you reattach it to the rest of the ovary, which still resides in the woman’s body.

The ovarian tissue is kept frozen in liquid nitrogen until the woman in question is ready for it to be implanted. The Telegraph reported that the re-implanted ovaries generally begin to produce eggs within a few months.

The ideal time for women to undergo this procedure when they are at their peak fertility, before the age of 30 -- and before they reach a point where conceiving naturally becomes difficult or impossible. “There is no healthy 21- or 25-year-old who’s seriously thinking what it’s like when she’s 40 and doesn’t have a child,” Silber told Forbes. “In her 40s, she’ll only have a 20 percent chance of being fertile. This procedure could totally change that.”

So far, most of the women who have undergone freezing their ovarian tissue have been cancer patients looking to preserve their fertility, according to Forbes. But British doctors plan to offer this procedure to a wider group of women. It also has the potential to yield better results than egg freezing or IVF, The Telegraph reported. Dr. Gredis Grudzinskas, an infertility and gynocology consultant who is planning to open a clinic in London told The Telegraph: “This technology is so much more efficient than we thought it would be. Women in their late 20s might consider freezing their eggs until they meet Mr. Right.”

However, the procedure is not without its drawbacks -- one of them being the cost. British women pay about £4,000 (approximately $6,370) for a cycle of IVF and £5,000 (approximately $7,962) for egg freezing. The Telegraph reported that ovarian tissue freezing would likely cost between £5,000 and £10,000 (between $7,962 and $15,925) initially, plus another £6,000 (around $9,555) to re-implant the tissue later on. And Dr. Nicole Noyes, fertility specialist and Director of Reproductive Surgery at the New York University School of Medicine and Medical Center, told Forbes that ovarian grafts don’t last forever. “[They’ll maybe last] 10-12 years on the outside length,” she said. “My advice, unless a woman knows she wants children in her 50s, hold onto the ovaries for now.”