[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 6 January 2006, 09:59 GMT
Women 'set to put family on ice'
Baby yawning
More babies are being born to older women
Young career women will soon be routinely freezing their eggs so they can have children after their fertility has declined, experts are predicting.

Fertility pioneer Dr Simon Fishel said coming technological developments in the embryo-freezing process would allow women to effectively delay motherhood.

Unless there was a "sea change" in social attitudes the practice would be common within 10 years, said Dr Fishel.

Women are already having children later despite falls in fertility rates at 35.

There are lots of women of reproductive age who are going to want to have a career
Dr Fishel

A report last month revealed the rate of women having children in their 30s had for the first time overtaken the pregnancy rate for younger women.

Scientists recently warned women that they could not expect to wait to have children in their late 30s and early 40s without risking the heartache of not being able to conceive.

But Dr Fishel, of the Care fertility clinic in Nottingham, said a coming "paradigm shift" in fertility preservation technology would enable women to effectively bank their eggs while they are at their fertile peak.

These could be thawed and used when they were ready to have a family, he said.

Speaking at a media briefing at the Royal Institution in London, Dr Fishel said: "There are lots of women of reproductive age who are going to want to have a career and they are not going to be frightened off by being told they should have children in their 20s.

"When we get to the stage where freezing eggs is quite safe and effective, there will be a significant proportion in our society who will want their eggs frozen at a younger age."

Ice damage

I think it's a grotesque idea. What about unforseen consequences for the offspring of these frozen future unions?
Bryan, Tel Aviv, Israel

He said he believed egg-freezing was inevitable, "unless there is a sea-change in social attitudes that encourages women to have children younger and to give up their careers".

But Peter Braude, director of the centre for pre-implantation genetic diagnosis at Guy's Hospital, London, warned that experts could not yet be sure the embryo-freezing process was safe.

He said it was known several cells were lost during the process and that it doesn't seem to harm anything.

"But we don't really know," he added.

Women can currently pay to freeze their eggs for non-medical reasons, but safety concerns mean many clinics will only do it for cancer patients whose fertility maybe destroyed by chemotherapy.

The high water content of eggs mean that when it is frozen ice crystals that form inside can destroy it.

But fertility experts say a new process, called "vitrification", where the water is drawn out and chemicals added is proving increasingly successful.

Twins born after two years on ice
11 Oct 05 |  West Midlands
Thirties 'peak time for babies'
16 Dec 05 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific