The Secret To Fertility After 40

Woman holding baby

Freezing ovaries allows women to prolong their fertility after 40.

When Amy Tucker of Columbia, Ill., gave birth to a healthy baby boy last May, she made headlines. The 32-year-old cancer survivor was no ordinary new mom. Thirteen years ago, when Tucker was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, she knew the cancer treatment would leave her infertile, so she elected to have one of her ovaries frozen for later re-implantation when she was cancer-free and ready to have kids.

The somewhat controversial procedure, conducted by Dr. Sherman Silber, director of the Infertility Center at St. Luke's Hospital in St. Louis, came off without a hitch in Tucker's case, making her the first cancer survivor in the U.S. to have a baby as a result of having an ovary frozen and re-implanted at a later time.

But freezing ovaries isn't just for young women about to undergo fertility-destroying cancer treatments. In a recent presentation to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in Denver, Silber told colleagues he felt ovary freezing offered a significantly more promising solution for infertility in older women than egg freezing. Silber told AOL Health that when a woman freezes eggs, she only gets about 10 or 15 eggs for each procedure, but with ovary freezing, she preserves 50,000 to 100,000 eggs, dramatically increasing her chances of pregnancy later in life.

"For cancer patients, we'll take out the whole ovary," says Silber, "but for young women looking to preserve fertility for later in life, we normally take out only a portion of the ovary. That way it won't impact her current fertility." So if a 22-year-old career woman planning to hold off on having children until she's 38 meets "Mr. Right" at 25, changes her mind and decides to settle down, she can still have children naturally even if she's had a portion of an ovary removed.