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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 13:59 GMT 14:59 UK
Frozen egg birth brings IVF hope
Frozen eggs
Mrs Perry's eggs were frozen rather than embryos
The first British woman to become pregnant using her own frozen eggs has given birth to a healthy baby girl.

Helen Perry, 36, from Ludlow, Shropshire, became pregnant using an egg which had been taken from her ovary six months earlier.

The egg was frozen, stored and then thawed. It was transferred into her womb last year and baby Emily was born three months ago.

The success of the revolutionary procedure will give hope to women who fear losing their chance to have children through cancer or other illnesses.

But it could also mean healthy women could use the technique to delay having children.

Dr Gillian Lockwood, of Midland Fertility Services whose team made the breakthrough, said: "The technology ... will work just as well for the Bridget Jones generation who want to freeze their eggs to keep their reproductive options open."

She added: "I think that egg freezing may come to be seen as the ultimate kind of family planning."

Mrs Perry and her husband Lee, who have been married for 17 years, turned to IVF after discovering that Mrs Perry had blocked fallopian tubes.

'Anti-freeze'

However, they decided against standard IVF treatment because of religious objections.

Usually, several embryos are created and those that turn out not to be needed are discarded.


I think that egg freezing may come to be seen as the ultimate kind of family planning

Dr Gillian Lockwood
This technique allows doctors to transfer embryos one at a time until there is a successful pregnancy. None of the embryos is wasted.

The Midlands Fertility Services clinic used 'anti-freeze' which protects the eggs when they thaw.

In the past, eggs have tended to become damage and unsuitable for use.

Mrs Perry's became pregnant after a second attempt. The couple said they were overjoyed with the birth of baby Emily.

"I'd always dreamed about ringing everybody up and saying I'm pregnant," Mrs Perry told ITV1's Tonight with Trevor McDonald.

Mr Perry added: "We are absolutely overjoyed. We had waited so long for a baby and for us to be the family we are today is just unbelievable."

Delay children

The procedure was banned in the UK until January 2000. Women had been permitted to have eggs frozen and stored. However, clinics were not allowed to thaw the eggs.

An estimated 100 women have frozen eggs stored at the Assisted Reproduction and Gynaecology Centre in London which has pioneered this treatment in the UK.


We are absolutely overjoyed

Lee Perry
Dr Mohammed Taranissi, its director, told BBC News Online that 18 babies had been born using the technique this year using donated eggs.

"The only problem so far has been that there was a misconception that the technique did not work," he told BBC News Online.

"But this is not the case and I think women will be coming forward to have their eggs frozen now."

Dr Glenn Atkinson, from CARE - Centres for Assisted Reproduction, said: "The numbers of women having their eggs frozen is increasing because a woman realises her biological clock is ticking but doesn't actually have a partner to achieve a pregnancy at that time."

However, a spokeswoman for the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority said: ""It is unlikely that when a woman is fully aware of what is involved in the procedure that they will use it as a lifestyle choice and simply as a way of delaying having a child."

Fertility expert Professor Lord Winston said there were also concerns about the long-term effects.

"Work in mice has shown that chromosomes which carry the genes can be broken up by egg freezing and that is why many clinics have not gone down this route," he told the BBC.

The charity Life said the treatment "opened the door" to women who wanted to have children in their 30s and 40s when fertility declines.

Clare Brown, executive director of CHILD The National Infertility Support Network, said: "CHILD does have concerns regarding the fact that a technique developed to help those suffering from infertility, may be used by those wanting to delay parenthood for social reasons such as their careers."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Fergus Walsh
"This kind of technique has been used successfully already outside the UK"
Leader of the research team, Dr Gillian Lockwood
"This will give some women an option, a chance to have their own baby"
Dr Mohammed Taranissi, Fertility expert
"I think it will become commonplace"

Click here to go to BBC Shropshire

Click here to go to BBC Birmingham Online
See also:

11 Oct 02 | Health
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31 Mar 99 | Medical notes
25 Jan 00 | Health
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