UK clinics to offer egg freezing

Women who want to delay having children may be able to freeze their eggs using a new technique developed in Japan.

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The technique – called vitrification – involves removing water from the eggs and freezing them in liquid nitrogen.

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Until now egg freezing has mainly been restricted to cancer patients whose eggs may be damaged by chemotherapy, but two of Britain’s leading fertility clinics will begin egg-freezing services on a commercial basis later this month.

Previously it was thought too risky to allow women to freeze eggs, as they could have become too damaged to use, but experts say that, with vitrification, when the eggs are thawed they are in almost as good a condition as before being frozen.

The two clinics now believe the breakthrough means it is no longer unethical to prescribe this treatment to healthy women who wish to postpone motherhood for social reasons.

Professor Gedis Grudzinskas, medical director of the Bridge Fertility Centre, told the Sunday Times: “The contraceptive pill gave women more choice about when they started their families. Egg freezing now gives women the chance to delay having children until the time that is right for them.”

But Dr Allan Pacey from the British Fertility Society told BBC News 24 he thought more research was needed, and he was concerned women may think they could preserve motherhood.

“Egg freezing has been problematic,” he said.

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“It’s not worked terribly well historically and whilst vitrification is proving in laboratory studies to be reasonably good, meaning when the eggs are thawed that they’re viable, there are too few studies, I think, yet to say whether or not this will actually translate into big success rates for women.”

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