Social Egg Freezing

Breaking the ice: Young feminist scholars of reproductive politics reflect on egg freezing, A. Cattapan, K. Hammond, J. Haw, & L.A. Tarasoff (commentary in the International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics)

ABSTRACT: While proponents of social (i.e., nonmedical) egg freezing argue that it is liberating for women, opponents contest that the technology provides an individualist solution to a social problem. This article comprises personal and academic reflections on the debate on social egg freezing from four young women studying reproductive technologies. We challenge the promotion of social egg freezing as an empowering option for women and question cultural assumptions about childbearing, the disclosure of risk, failures to consider sexual diversity and socioeconomic status, and the expansion of the market in reproductive tissues.

“Exciting and terrifying”: A young feminist scholar reflects on (social egg freezing as a solution for) “having it all” (my guest post on the University of Toronto Press Journals Blog)

Scholars debunk idea that social egg freezing is empowering, Gates Cambridge News

Egg freezing: An empowering option for women?, University of Cambridge Research

You can follow my colleagues Katie Hammond and Alana Cattapan on Twitter: @HammKatie and @arcattapan

Resources from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and other major health authorities:

Mature oocyte cryopreservation: A guidelinePractice Committees of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology

Oocyte Cryopreservation, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ Committee on Gynecologic Practice

“There are not yet sufficient data to recommend oocyte cryopreservation for the sole purpose of circumventing reproductive aging in healthy women.” – ACOG

Probability Of Live Birth After Egg Freezing Related To Patient Age And Freezing Method, ASRM Office of Public Affairs

Human oocyte cryopreservation: Evidence for practice, R. Cutting & colleagues

Age and Fertility, Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada

Egg Donation (fact sheet)

Related reading:

We Need to Talk About Our Eggs, S.E. Richards (New York Times)

Why I Froze My Eggs (And You Should, Too), S.E. Richards (Wall Street Journal)

Women, consider freezing your eggs, M.C. Inhorn (CNN; this article partly inspired our above article)

Op-Ed: Egg Freezing: WTF?*, L.M. Morgan & J.S. Taylor (The Feminist Wire)

“…the truth behind feminist struggles is that achieving a more just society will require paid parental and sick leave, affordable child care, comprehensive health insurance, immigrant health care, and adequate wages. Instead of advising students to freeze their eggs, how about joining the fight for better working conditions at our nation’s colleges and universities? How about calling for federally financed studies of the health effects of egg donation? If we had these things, maybe women would find it easier to reconcile family and career.” – Morgan & Taylor

Social egg freezing: A means to achieving life goals before becoming a mother, or a question of ethics?, J. Shupac (The National Post)

There’s More to Life Than Freezing Your Eggs, J. Urist (The Atlantic)

Below are a number of articles written in response to Facebook and Apple’s decision to offer to pay for egg freezing for their female employees:

Left Out in the Cold: Seven Reasons not to Freeze Your Eggs, F. Baylis (Impact Ethics)

Facebook & Apple add egg freezing to employee benefit plans, spark controversy (article and podcast of The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC Radio – a discussion about egg freezing with S. Muzaffar, CEO and Founder of TechGirls Canada, K. Rushton,U.S. Business Editor of the Daily Telegraph, and F. Baylis, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Bioethics and Philosophy at Dalhousie University)

“Men don’t have to make this choice.” – Baylis

We need a culture thaw, not frozen eggs, V. Ravitsky and M.-E. Lemoine (The Globe and Mail)

Don’t freeze my eggs, Apple. Fix tech’s toxic work culture first, E. Woolley (The Globe and Mail)

Why Egg Freezing Benefits Aren’t Even Close to Enough, V. McGrady (Jezebel)

Another Reason Freezing Employees’ Eggs is a Terrible Idea, R. Lewis

Facebook and Apple – Increasing choice and control or creating biased solutions?, J. Ahola-Launonen

The Sobering Facts About Egg Freezing That Nobody’s Talking About, P. Mahoney Tsigdinos (Wired)

Egg-freezing a better deal for companies than for women, R. Almeling, J. Radin, & S.S. Richardson (CNN)

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

Facebook Offers To Freeze Female Employees’ Newborn Children (The Onion)

“Facebook also confirmed that the company would begin covering the costs of a procedure that involves freezing a female employee’s husband until he is emotionally prepared to be a father.” – The Onion

Egg Freezing Deserves Serious ConsiderationS. Kashyap (Huffington Post)

Facebook’s egg freezing is what women want, A. Chapin (Ottawa Citizen)

I am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs, N. Lampert (Slate)

Egg freezing: the perfect 30th birthday gift for women, S. Peck (The Telegraph)

Freezing eggs for female staff is great in theory. But it offers no guarantees, S. Boseley (The Guardian)

Ramona Rosales/Bloomberg Businessweek

Later, Baby: Will Freezing Your Eggs Free Your Career?, E. Rosenblum (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Fertility Math: It’s 10 Times Harder to Get Pregnant at 43 Than at 37, R. Wallace (Yahoo)

Dear Facebook, Please Don’t Tell Women to Lean In to Egg Freezing, J. Cussins (Huffington Post)

Facebook and Apple Will Pay for Employees to Freeze Their Eggs, M. Garber (The Atlantic)

Egg Freezing: 5 Things You Need to Know, R. Rettner

Egg Freezing – A 21st Century Dilemma?, L. Moyo

The True Impetus Behind Egg-Freezing, S. Satel (Forbes)

Is Egg Freezing Really a Benefit?, A. North (New York Times)

Should You Freeze Your Eggs?, R. Marantz Henig (Slate)

Is Freezing Your Eggs Dangerous? A Primer, J. Johnston & M. Zoll (New Republic)

Facebook and Apple Will Pay for Female Employees to Freeze Their Eggs, I. Aran (Jezebel)

‘Offer fertility check to every woman over 35’, S. Knapton (The Telegraph)

Don’t Depend on Those Frozen Eggs, S.E. Richards (New York Times)

Needles and dating: 8 things I wish I’d known before freezing my eggs, R. Ross (Today)

Latest tech fad: egg-freezing parties for female workers, W. Lee (San Francisco Chronicle)

Egg freezing: Don’t call it a trend, R.A. Peischler

The imperative character of ‘social’ egg freezing, K. Baldwin (Impact Ethics)

Space may make astronauts infertile, scientists fear, S. Knapton (The Telegraph)

Will you count your eggs? (The Hindu)

Egg freezing and egg banking: empowerment and alienation in assisted reproduction, J.A. Robertson (academic article in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences)

More articles on social egg freezing, December 2014 – January 2015:

Few employers cover egg freezing for women with cancer, M. Andrews

Ice ice babies: why high-flying women are freezing their eggs, L. Tobin (Evening Standard)

Women freeze biological clock, J. Lapook (CBS News)

Egg freezing won’t solve our childcare problem, E. Makouezi

“But, as potentially beneficial as the technology is, those celebrating its advocacy by Apple et al fail to engage fully with childcare as a social problem. Expensive childcare costs, for example, are a significant issue.” – Makouezi

Employers’ egg-freeze offer controversy, J. Mather (The Australian Financial Review Magazine)

From medical to social: egg freezing trends, J. Mather (The Australian Financial Review Magazine)

An academic article of interest:

Using Egg Freezing to Extend the Biological Clock: Fertility Insurance or False Hope?, S. Mohapatra (academic article in the Harvard Law & Policy Review)

“…egg freezing technology, while promising, poses significant legal, economic, and social problems. … we should not view egg freezing technology as a panacea that obviates the need to address gender inequities that force women into a children-or-career dilemma” – Mohapatra

Thanks so much Seema for sharing this article with me. You can learn more about Seema and her work here, or follow her on Twitter @MohapatraSeema

February 2015:

Egg-freezing? Put flex time, daycare first, J. Nelson (The Globe and Mail)

“But let’s step back for a moment. How come women feel like they can’t have children and advance in their careers? Why aren’t men struggling with these concerns? And, what exactly do we expect women to do to their bodies – pumping themselves full of hormones and enduring surgical procedures with unknown consequences and no reproductive guarantee – to become the ideal employee?” – Nelson

“There’s more work to be done. In a piece published last fall in the Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics, researchers point out that the conversation about egg freezing fails to account for sexual diversity and socioeconomic status. The fact is, they say, the prime users of this technology are wealthier, white, married women. Even if it were completely safe and effective, egg freezing wouldn’t fix the social issues that curb access to reproductive options.” – Nelson referencing our article

Buying time: How egg freezing has moved into the mainstream, C. Weeks (The Globe and Mail). Carly Weeks interviewed me in October about social egg freezing, though she doesn’t directly quote me in this piece.

Reproductive technology and the life course: Current debates and research in social egg freezing, K. Baldwin and colleagues (academic article in Human Fertility). You can follow Kylie on Twitter: @klb38

There’s nothing fun about an egg freezing party, R. Greenfield

Fertility treatments: from sci-fi to reality, A. Motluk (The Globe and Mail)April 2015:Social egg freezing: risk, benefits and other considerationsA. Petropanagos, A. Cattapan, F. Baylis, & A. Leader (academic article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal)
Freezing fertility: risks and benefits of social egg freezing (CMAJ podcast)
“Dr. Moneeza Walji, editorial fellow, interviews Dr. Angel Petropanagos, postdoctoral fellow at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Some women who anticipate fertility decline due to the natural aging process may now choose to freeze their eggs to preserve their future fertility. Dr. Petropanagos discusses the benefits, risks, ethical concerns and societal implications of this practice to provide family physicians with the tools to offer balanced information to clients who seek it.”

Summer 2015:

What You Really Need to Know About Egg Freezing, C. Atler, D. Tsai, & F. Trianni (Time)
November 2015:
Winter 2016:‘Social’ egg-freezing is a hideous fertility gamble, V. Groskop (The Guardian)
Egg freezing has little to do with inflexible workplaces, E. Jackson (LSE Business Review)

While egg freezing might be able to level the playing field for career-focussed and ambitious men and women, it also potentially widens the class divide. Egg freezing is expensive and only ever likely to be used by women who want to combine (comparatively) high-income employment with motherhood. For unemployed women, or women in low-status and low-income employment, there are seldom many reasons to delay childbearing. It is already the case that richer women have children later than poorer women, but egg freezing has the potential to make the gulf between women’s experience of motherhood, depending on their social class, even wider. – Jackson

An Egg Freezing ‘Pop-Up Store’ Appears in London, V. Turk (Motherboard)

Social egg freezing on the rise in Mumbai, R. Olivera (The Times of India)
July 2016:
Social egg freezing: A reproductive chance or smoke and mirrors?, Martinelli et al., 2015 (academic article in the Croatian Medical Journal)


For more about social egg freezing and other issues regarding assisted human reproduction (from bioethical, legal, and sociological perspectives), I encourage you to visit the websites for Novel Tech Ethics (based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada) (and their blog Impact Ethics), ReproSoc (based in Cambridge, UK), and Fertility Law Canada (based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada).
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