After two big companies recently announced they would cover the costs for their female employees to freeze their eggs, some may be wondering about the pros and cons of the procedure. The freezing of eggs or vitrification as the process is called allows women to choose the timeframe for reproduction based on their specific goals in life.
Some declare it a miraculous advancement in the reproductive health arena that will level the playing field for career women. Others insist that it smacks of manipulation, obviously intended to convince women that childbearing should come later in life, much later.
Proponents use the fact that about two years ago the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) omitted the word “experimental” from the egg freezing process, interpreting the action as an official endorsement. Others are quick to point out that the ASRM’s 2012 approval was for cases where the mother-to-be had health challenges like cancer, for instance, that may have prevented her from producing healthy eggs at a later date.
It appears that more and more women are delaying child-birth until later in life. According to a statistical report prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2012 birthrates for women aged 30-44 increased. There was also a slight increase in the number of babies born to unmarried women.
Women report delaying childbirth for different reasons. Some choose career advancement in lieu of having children at an earlier age. Others may delay reproduction until they are married or in a stable relationship. Still others wait until they feel financially secure. For these women, thwarting their “biological clocks” can bring a sense of liberation and empowerment.
Some women, like Wired contributor, Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos are not so quick to celebrate the fact the Apple and Facebook, and potentially Google are being so magnanimous toward their female employees. Tsigdinos, who visited several San Francisco Bay area fertility clinics in her efforts to conceive, says she had many frozen and fresh embryo transfers, but came away with “tremendous heartache” instead of taking home a baby.
She warns women to research the pros and the cons of the egg freezing process and to be aware of the risks involved. Ms. Tsigdinos argues that there is no hard data to support the procedure’s effectiveness. Women who elect to freeze their eggs must undergo multiple rounds of hormone injections when attempting to harvest the eggs and again when preparing the womb to receive the thawed eggs. She points out that no one really knows what effect these hormones or the chemicals used in the flash freezing process will have on a fetus.
While Tsigdinos points out that egg freezing can be invasive, expensive and it also comes with risks of depression should the procedure fail, others are enthusiastic about their ability to plan their lives on based on their own timelines. Time contributor, Jessica Bennett, writes that the procedure might be a great “equalizer.” She points out that, “…Even though it’s too soon to say how successful the procedure down the line will be — for women who return, thaw, and begin the process of IVF — it’s almost like an insurance policy. An egalitarian “peace of mind.”
For now, at least, it seems that women are divided about the prospect of freezing healthy eggs in order to reproduce in later years. It appears that some may wholeheartedly embrace the ability and commend Citibank and other forward thinking employers for making the opportunity affordable. Others may be more cautious and possibly reluctant to celebrate until they have thoroughly researched the pros and cons of the egg freezing procedure.
By Constance Spruill