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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 September 2006, 00:25 GMT 01:25 UK
Women in 30s 'should freeze eggs'
Mother and baby
Many women are delaying trying to have children
Women in their early 30s thinking of delaying motherhood should be offered the option of freezing their eggs, a fertility specialist has said.

Dr Gillian Lockwood, of the British Fertility Society, says the measure is needed because so many women are looking to have children later.

This can be because they have focused on a career, financial stability - or have only just found "Mr Right".

But critics said the suggestion was an "absurd" solution to a social problem.

The reality is that it isn't an ideal world
Dr Gillian Lockwood

The age at which women are having babies is increasing, with for the first time ever, more pregnancies occurring to women in their 30s than to women in their 20s.

Dr Lockwood is set to tell the British Society Meeting in Glasgow that this trend is set to continue, leading to increasing stresses for older women who want to conceive.

The older a woman is, the higher her chance of miscarriage and of having a baby with Down's syndrome.

No guarantee

More than 30 of the 84 clinics in the UK have a licence from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority allowing them to freeze eggs, although just 10 are believed to do so - including Dr Lockwood's Midland Fertility Services.

Most patients have eggs frozen to guard against the effects of cancer treatment.

A woman wanting to freeze her eggs for social reasons could expect to pay at least 2,500.

We should stop finding these absurd solutions for society's problems
Josephine Quintavalle, Comment on Reproductive Ethics

But Dr Lockwood said that around a quarter of the 66 woman who have been treated at her clinic have had their eggs frozen as an "insurance policy" in case social reasons mean they need them when they are older.

There have been three pregnancies, resulting in four babies, among women using frozen eggs.

However, using frozen eggs in IVF treatment is not guaranteed to work.

Dr Lockwood said: "I don't want to encourage women who could have a family at the normal time to not do so because they think egg freezing will be an alternative, but not to know that this is available is unfortunate.

"Women in their late 30s and early 40s look and feel younger, and they tend to feel they have the same reproductive lifespan as a younger woman.

"It may seem very meddlesome to suggest women in their early 30s should freeze their eggs.

"In an ideal world, women would be able to combine a career, a home life and having children.

"But the reality is that it isn't an ideal world."

She added: "I'd much rather that a 42-year-old woman used healthy frozen eggs from her 30s, than she took a chance on her 'time expired' eggs from her 40s."

A spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said women should be aware of all options, but having babies earlier remained the best.

But Josephine Quintavalle, of the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said: "We should stop finding these absurd solutions for society's problems.

"If society isn't ideal, then we should change it - not force women to buy into such risky and unreliable ways of dealing with the problem of when to have children."

Dr Lockwood on why women should freeze their eggs


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