Facebook and Apple have started offering their female employees egg freezing and storage as part of their medical coverage.
And experts writing in the Lancet medical journal recently said all women should be given the chance to freeze their eggs in their 20s or early 30s so that they have the option of conceiving later in life.
"Couples continue to postpone a family until later in life for various economic, educational and social reasons," say the experts.
So this all makes perfect sense, right? More women want to have babies later, so we should all freeze our eggs and defrost them when we're ready to start a family. Hurrah for Apple and Facebook for seeing the light.
Actually, the whole thing gives me the heebie-jeebies, and here's why:
1. There's no guarantee of success. There will inevitably be women who freeze their eggs, wait until they're in their late 30s, attempt to get pregnant and fail. Freezing your eggs is not like waving a magic wand.
2. If we create a culture where it becomes the norm to freeze our eggs so that we can have children at a set point in the future, what happens to those women who decide that they want to have their first child in their 20s? Are they not going to be given the same kind of career options? Are they going to be asked: "Why didn't you freeze your eggs?"
3. Up until December 2012, around 18,000 eggs had been stored in the UK for patients' own use, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. Around 580 embryos have been created from frozen eggs and there have been 20 live births. That's not a lot, is it? Ok, some of those eggs came from cancer patients and there's no reliable information about the age of the patients, but it doesn't inspire confidence.
4. It takes two to make a baby. Where's the mention of male fertility in all this? We tend to assume that men can carry on procreating as long as they like – look at Bruce Willis, Michael Douglas and Paul McCartney. But actually, male fertility drops off too. The chances of conception taking more than a year are about eight per cent when the man is under 25 and about 15 per cent when the man is over 35. As men get older, they have a greater chance of fathering children with chromosomal problems, and if both prospective parents are over the age of 35, there's a higher risk of miscarriage.
5. Each egg extraction costs thousands – around £4,000 per cycle in the UK. If only someone would put that kind of money into maternity pay...
6. Women want to have a baby when they are ready to have a baby. This might be in their early 20s, it might be in their late 30s. Egg freezing is great for women who NEED to postpone having children. But we shouldn't be made to feel that there is an optimum time in our career to have children and base our entire lives around it.
7. Stop offering us more choice. We don't need more choice. We need more support for the choices we make. We need to feel that we don't HAVE to postpone having children for as long as possible in order to further our careers. We need longer maternity leave and better pay and more flexible working. We need to be able to return to our jobs after having children, without being demoted or having to take a lower-paid job in order to work part time.
So let's not get side-tracked by egg freezing. Let's concentrate on the issues that really matter – supporting women as they attempt to juggle work and family. If you want to congratulate Facebook for something, congratulate them for their £2, 500 bonus for employees when they have their first baby. However, it was reported last year that Facebook was building a new £75 million housing complex in California for its employees, featuring a whole host of amenities including 'doggy day care' – but guess what? No childcare. There's still a way to go, then.
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