A leading reproductive surgeon says that women in their 20s should freeze parts of their ovaries so they can have children later in life.
Dr Sherman Silber says the controversial procedure, which is highly successful at producing babies, should be available on the NHS. He believes it is far more effective than IVF and could help millions of women delay having children until they have fulfilled their career ambitions and are ready to settle down.
The procedure – which costs less than £4,000 – involves extracting about a third of the tissue from one of a woman's ovaries while she is in her twenties and at her most fertile.
This section of tissue contains about 60,000 eggs. It is frozen until the woman reaches her thirties, forties or even fifties and decides to start a family.
It is then thawed and implanted back into her ovary so it can provide her with the same number and quality of eggs she would have had in her twenties.
The operation to extract the tissue takes a couple of hours under general anaesthetic. It only involves removing a third of one of a woman's two ovaries – leaving a woman with just over 80 per cent of her total ovarian tissue.
This means that even if she was to change her mind a few months later and decide to try for children immediately she would still have hundreds of thousands of eggs.
The operation to put the thawed tissue back into the ovaries is similar to a skin graft.
But critics warned it raised the prospect of children being seen as 'consumer goods'.
Norman Wells, of Family and Youth Concern, told the Daily Mail: 'Dr Silber seems to have lost sight of the fact that a woman's childbearing years are limited for good reason.
'As a society we have given motherhood a lower status than having a career with the result that large numbers of women are consciously choosing to devote their most energetic years to work outside the home rather than to bearing and raising children.
'All too often children are regarded as consumer goods to be fitted in when it is most convenient for their mothers' careers, rather than as gifts to be loved and cherished.'
Many of St Louis-based Dr Silbert's 140 patients are cancer victims who have the procedure before chemotherapy which can affect fertility.
In those without cancer, there has been a 100 per cent success rate, compared to a one in three chance of conception with IVF.
Dr Silber told the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Denver: 'An 18 year old is not going to think about this, maybe not a 25 year old, but a woman should really think about this before she reaches 30.'