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New Fertility Treatment Freezes Ovarian Tissue

If you're considering freezing your eggs to prolong your ability to conceive, you may want to also look into a new fertility technique. Freezing part of your ovaries is a procedure that offers a less painful and less expensive alternative.

The technique was developed to preserve fertility for young women undergoing cancer chemotherapy and radiation, such as Amy Tucker of Illinois, who became the first cancer survivor in the United States to give birth through this revolutionary procedure. When Tucker was 19, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and was told she would never be able to have children. Dr. Sherman Silber of the Infertility Center of St. Louis suggested that Tucker have one of her ovaries removed and preserved in hopes that she could have children after her cancer was completely gone.

Tucker has been in remission since 2001, and she returned to Silber in 2009 to reimplant her frozen ovary. In just months, her ovary started functioning normally, and her son Grant was conceived naturally. He's now 4 years old. Silber says ovary-freezing has worked successfully for three out of every four of his patients.

According to the Infertility Center of St. Louis, all of a woman's eggs can be found in the 1-mm-thin outer layer of the ovary, while the inside of the ovary is simply blood vessels that feed the eggs and follicles. This structure makes it possible for an entire ovary to be removed and the outer layer dissected off microsurgically. The ovarian tissue is then put through a gradual freezing process. It is preserved for future implantation back into the woman when she is ready for a child.

Freezing young ovarian tissue allows women to freeze hundreds of thousands of their eggs and is much cheaper than egg freezing. The procedure costs roughly $10,000 while freezing eggs can cost anywhere up to $25,000.

About 30 births have resulted from this experimental procedure worldwide, but there are high hopes for the future. Besides St. Louis, the procedure is available in California. Many centers may mention the technique on their websites, but few have actually done it. For more information about ovarian tissue freezing, visit the Infertility Center of St. Louis website.