March 3, 2024

Freeze your ovaries, have children in later life: US surgeon

“Ovarian grafts” allow women to wait until they are ready, US surgeon says
London Telegraph

Younger women should have small sections of their ovaries frozen to avoid infertility if they decide to start a family in middle age, a leading US surgeon said last week. The procedure could give a 40-year-old the level of fertility of a woman half her age, according to Dr Sherman Silber, who performed the world’s first complete ovary transplant in 2007.

Thin slivers of ovaries – holding tens of thousands of eggs – can be removed surgically and frozen indefinitely for about US$6,500, Dr Silber said. He added that removing a one-millimetre-thin graft of a woman’s ovary had no effect on her chances of conceiving naturally in the meantime if she chose to.

His team in St Louis, Missouri, has removed ovarian grafts from around 140 women. The technique was developed to preserve the fertility of women who had to undergo treatment for cancer. But Dr Silber said growing numbers of women were seeking the treatment for the sole purpose of delaying motherhood. About 60 of his patients had ovarian grafts in order to fit in with their lifestyle. Silber encouraged women to consider the treatment, which takes half an hour, in their 20s.

He said, “These 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.” By removing ovarian grafts, they could “relax” and wait until 40 to start a family if they so chose, he said, safe in the knowledge that “a 25-year-old ovary” was waiting for them. Silber argued that the procedure could replace IVF, explaining that declining egg quality was the main cause of infertility in women over 30. “None of these women really need IVF after this treatment. If you freeze these ovaries at a young age, you don’t have to worry,” he said. He also said the price of an ovarian graft was significantly less than the “prohibitively expensive” cost of numerous IVF cycles.

While Dr Silber described the procedure as “robust” and said it took only a few days’ training for a competent surgeon to master, some have expressed concern. Tony Rutherford, chairman of the British Fertility society, said: “If it’s performed in lesser hands it might not be quite as effective.” He called for a “worldwide register” of these graft operations. “Only then can we give patients realistic figures about whether it’s going to work or not. Susan Seenan, of Infertility Network UK, also urged caution. She said, “The best time to have children is when a woman is younger.” ~ London Telegraph, Oct 28

Jared Yee