Should young women put some of their eggs into deep freeze so they can be fertilized years later, after they have established their careers or met Mr. Right?
This question broke into the open at a meeting of the British Fertility Society that's currently under way in Glasgow, Scotland, where a fertility expert has called on the "Bridget Jones generation" to consider freezing their eggs to raise their chances of giving birth to a healthy baby later in life.
Dr. Gillian Lockwood, who runs a U.K. fertility clinic, told delegates that women thinking of delaying motherhood should freeze their eggs to avoid finding out that they had "missed the boat." Lockwood said the chances of a woman in her 40s giving birth using eggs frozen in her 30s were greater than getting pregnant using fresh eggs at an older age.
Until now, relatively few young women have frozen their eggs, and the most common reason cited by those who have is that they were about to undergo treatments -- such as for cancer -- that could affect their fertility.
Broadening the egg-freezing practice to the female population at large poses a potential social bombshell.
Advocates of egg freezing, such as Lockwood, said it gives women the option of delaying motherhood, which they might need to do for such reasons as not having a partner, caring for elderly parents, or not having the finances early in life.
"I'm very keen to stress that it's not a guarantee, it's not an insurance policy, but it is an option," she said.
Once an egg is frozen, explained Lockwood, it is frozen in time and there is no decay or damage. The chance of having a healthy pregnancy with a frozen egg is about one in four. "That is not great, but it is all a normally fertile couple have the old-fashioned way," she said. "It's the age of the egg, not the age of the womb, which determines the miscarriage rate."
Of course, egg freezing has its critics. Josephine Quintavalle, of the group Comment on Reproductive Ethics, said, "We should stop finding these absurd solutions for society's problems.
"I would dispute that we can't change society, and we shouldn't be coming up with these extreme ways of fixing problems in the future."
"Women shouldn't have to decide between a pregnancy and a career," she told ABC News. "Fixing a social problem should mean fixing those conditions in society, rather pressuring women to undergo serious and potentially risky heath procedures."