Australian doctors have learned how to preserve a woman's fertility indefinitely, opening up the possibility for women to avoid menopause altogether and get pregnant later in life.
However, they say they are, for the moment, only using an ovarian tissue transplant technique on women with medical reasons to preserve their fertility because of the ethical considerations that come with requests for social reasons.
Director of Monash IVF Gab Kovacs said his team had successfully preserved a Melbourne woman's fertility by taking ovarian tissue from her before she had breast cancer treatment in 2005, freezing it, and reimplanting it in her this year.
The procedure allowed the 43-year-old woman's body to resume natural ovulation. She is now six weeks pregnant.
After announcing the woman had become the 20th woman in the world and the first in Australia to achieve pregnancy with the ground breaking technique, Kovacs said ovarian tissue freezing had enormous potential for cancer patients and other women worldwide.
He said it not only created a more reliable way for cancer patients to preserve their fertility, but opened up the potential for women to avoid the onset of menopause altogether.
"What this means is that a woman's fertility can be preserved indefinitely," he said.
"The whole concept of using it for social reasons doesn't sit comfortably with me, so I'm not advocating for that, but it might have a place in preventing diseases that come with menopause such as osteoporosis," he said.
Kovacs said the technique, which he learned from Israeli fertility specialists, was cheap and could be easily taught to other doctors.
''The beauty of this technology is that a woman can see a doctor one day and have the tissue removed the next - there's no delay. It's simple and any gynaecologist can do it,'' he said.
It was also cheaper than egg freezing and IVF - the options currently available to women with cancer.
''This could be the way to go for women who want to preserve their fertility after cancer,'' he said.
- Sydney Morning Herald and AAP