Worried about what the future may hold for your health? An emerging health movement is encouraging the ''worried well'' to literally put their anxieties on ice.
A number of Australian IVF clinics tout egg freezing and storage for healthy women in their 30s who want a baby but are not yet ready to conceive.
Private cord banks can store tissue and blood from a baby's umbilical cord, which could potentially provide stem cells to be used to treat a range of illnesses from cancer to cerebral palsy.
Insuring against the future comes at a price with cord blood storage costing about $3000 and egg freezing up to $14,000, but critics say clinics that offer such services are exploiting people's fears.
IVF clinics say they are promoting ''fertility preservation'' services in response to strong demand for information. Private cord banks say they are offering parents peace of mind.
Advertisements for Fertility East promote services for single women featuring an image of a female with the number 35 on her chest and a clock set at five minutes to midnight on her abdomen and the caption: ''Single and wanting a baby? Act while your biological clock is still ticking.''
Sandra Dill, the chief executive of the infertility network Access Australia, said such marketing could exploit people's concerns about their ability to conceive.
''The dilemma for people seeking guidance is they need to be informed,'' she said.
''Advertising is one way of giving information but it is very limited information. We really encourage people to be informed and not to just blithely accept information, particularly in something like an ad, which is really just a grab. When you're talking about medical treatment, it's always more complex.''
The director of Fertility East, John Brain, said rather than exploiting the concerns of single women, the promotional material was addressing them by providing information about their options.
A recent information session had 120 women register. Fertility East had to hold three sessions to accommodate the interest.
''What we're trying to get across is that after the age of 35, their eggs start to deteriorate,'' he said.
''By the time they reach 40, they are at the last stage. Once the eggs are finished they have to look at donor programs.
''What I see quite a lot of is a woman is 38, she's worked and travelled and run companies, she's done the lot. She wants to have a baby but she hasn't got Mr Right. She's looking for a man and she's got two years to go.
''Whereas if they sought information at the age of 35 or before, there is a chance that, while we can't give them Mr Right, we can give them alternatives so they could end up with a baby.''
IVF Australia does not actively promote fertility preservation, although it recently conducted a letter box drop in the eastern suburbs inviting couples to an information session about other services it offers. Associate Professor Peter Illingworth, the medical director of IVF Australia, said women need to be able to make informed choices, although in his view, egg freezing was ''not a particularly good deal''.
''Promoting egg freezing is one of those examples of worrying the well,'' he said. ''I don't see any moral or ethical problem with it. It's a perfectly reasonable thing for a woman to want to do, but she needs to be informed about what the process involves and the likelihood of success.''
Demand for private cord bank storage, which has been available for 10 years, has also increased, with 18,000 units of cord blood stored privately in NSW.
Federal government regulations limit the use of cord blood stem cells, which are mainly used to treat immune deficiency and leukaemia.
High-profile parents who have chosen to use the services of the private cord bank Cell Care include the former Olympic swimmer Michael Klim and his wife, businesswoman Lindy, and the AFL star Chris Judd and his wife, model Rebecca. Mrs Judd and Mrs Klim have both provided testimonials on Cell Care's website.
''My husband, Chris, and I hope that Oscar never needs to use his stored cord blood but it gives us great peace of mind to know that it is there just in case,'' Mrs Judd wrote.
Mrs Klim wrote: ''Obviously, no one ever wants to think about the possibility of their child getting sick and I really hope that we never have to use the cord blood, but it makes us feel safe to know that it's there if we do ever need it.''
The ''just in case'' factor is the key driver behind the growth in private cord bank services according to the medical director of Cell Care, Mark Kirkland.
''There is a very long history of just-in-case storage for people who have already been diagnosed with an illness,'' he said. ''This is just extending that out to people who haven't got the diagnosis but it still might be worthwhile.''
Storage of tissue for healthy people is a growing area overseas, with clinics offering services for fat tissue, bone marrow and immune cells.
Dr Kirkland rejects suggestions that such services prey on people's concerns, saying it's no different from the insurance industry.
''It's the nature of an insurance policy that you make a value judgment about the value of any given investment in future events,'' he said. ''Certainly we are meticulous in not making false promises about what cord blood can do. We're giving people that option with full knowledge.''
The Medical Board of Australia's code of practice on advertising expressly prohibits playing on patients' vulnerability or fears about their future health and also the use of testimonials. A spokeswoman for the board said it had heard concerns about a wide range of advertising issues but she was unable to comment on specific cases.