Is this the future for career women Top surgeon recommends ovarian grafts to delay motherhood
Women could wait until they were 47 before starting a family, says fertility expert
22:36 GMT, 4 July 2012
Women could delay having babies and the menopause with an ovary transplant, according to the surgeon who carried out the first such operation.
Similar techniques are currently used to save the ovaries of those being treated for cancer, but Dr Sherman Silber predicted transplants or grafts for social reasons were a realistic option for preserving fertility.
In 2007 the US microsurgeon transplanted an ovary from one twin to another who had become infertile. The 38-year-old woman gave birth the following year.
Future of motherhood Dr Silber's work has led to eight babies being born to women who had frozen and thawed ovary grafts or fresh ovary grafts donated by relatives (posed)
Transplanting ovaries or ovarian tissue is currently used to help women
and girls undergoing cancer treatment to preserve their fertility.
The drugs used to treat cancer may destroy ovaries, so slices of tissue
are taken in advance and frozen. They can be re-implanted when the
woman is ready to start a family.
So far 22 women have given birth after having their ovarian tissue
restored. The latest success was achieved in Italy seven years after a
21-year-old woman had ovarian tissue frozen before cancer treatment.
Details were released at the annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology in Istanbul.
Dr Silber predicted transplants or grafts for social reasons were a realistic option for preserving fertility
Dr Silber, who practises at the Infertility Center of Saint Louis,
Missouri, presented data on three wo men who had frozen and thawed ovary
grafts and nine who had fresh ovary grafts, usually donated by
One woman had ovarian tissue implanted to treat premature menopause
caused by cancer drugs, while another had a graft to treat a naturally
Eight babies have been born in total to the women, with one graft lasting seven years so far.
Dr Silber said: ‘Transplanted ovarian tissue can robustly restore
menstrual cycles and fertility and may even in the future be used to
postpone the normal time of menopause or to alleviate its symptoms.’
was a remedy for severe bone loss caused by premature menopause because
the new ovary would supply the body’s missing hormones, he added.
Women going through a premature menopause in their 20s or 30s are
currently offered hormone replacement therapy to alleviate symptoms. Dr
Silber has previously claimed ovary transplants could be a solution to
the increase in fertility problems caused by career women putting off
In 2008 he predicted women who had an ovary frozen in their 20s could look forward to the best of all worlds.
‘A young ovary can be transplanted back at any time and it will extend
fertility and delay the menopause. You could even wait until you were
47,’ he said.
However, British experts said ovarian transplant techniques were
originally developed to help women facing infertility through cancer
treatment and this was likely to remain the case for the foreseeable
Professor Nick Macklon, medical director of the Complete Fertility
Centre, Southampton, said freezing ovarian tissue for social reasons
raised ethical issues that would need to be debated by society as well