Ten years ago, Sarah Gardner got a wakeup call. Her long-term relationship was ending and a fertility test indicated her 34-year-old ovaries were registering about a decade older. Her fertility research led her to Sherman Silber, a Missouri fertility doctor who claimed he had a procedure that could "put [women's] biological clocks on ice," as NPR put it in 2012. That procedure is removing part or all of an ovary, freezing it, then transplanting it back in once a woman is ready to have kids. Not only did Gardner, who lives in Australia, go that route, but her twin sister, Joanne, who lives in London, did the same. "It really just took a huge weight off us," Sarah tells NPR, which notes the now 44-year-old siblings each had an ovary removed in 2012 and just had them reimplanted in St. Louis in June.
Freezing ovaries was initially designed for cancer patients, and a reproductive medicine professor at Cornell's Weill Medical College calls it "irresponsible" to push ovary freezing for women without the disease. But Silber, who notes the Gardner sisters may be the first non-cancer patients to try the technique, says it's easy, safe, and has upsides over egg freezing: weeks of hormone injections aren't needed, and the total price tag is less than $3,000. The Gardner sisters, meanwhile, both hope to be pregnant by the end of 2016—and hope the procedure will turn back the clock on menopause, which they've both entered. As for their potential for success, a 2015 study found that of 32 cancer survivors who had thawed ovarian tissue transplanted, 10 later had at least one child.