As we’ve all seen in the last several decades, women’s roles in society—including in the home, the workplace, the classroom and the family—have been changing, evolving really. Every other day, there is an announcement about a new breakthrough—or a new setback—for women’s choices and what that breakthrough or setback will mean for women and their loved ones.
One of them is advancement in oocyte cryopreservation, or egg freezing and how more and more companies are willing to pay for this procedure. A few months ago, Facebook and Apple announced they would begin offering female employees elective egg freezing benefits and it seems as though others in the technology community may follow suit.
Many women are very intrigued by this option. Brigitte Adams, who started a community forum called Eggsurance and is a marketing executive at a tech startup, told NPR that she equates the procedure with reimbursement for an MBA program or adoption assistance.
Other women like this option because finding the right partner at the right time is not always easy. Sarah Wildman interviewed a 37-year-old woman named Nette for New York Magazine who told the story of her exciting life and career in the music business and how, when she hit her thirties, she wanted to settle down. But, what she came to find was, “Finding someone who is ready for a commitment when you’re ready is very tough,” she told the magazine. She wanted to stop her biological clock before it was too late.
However, it’s not just about the lack of a partner. Some women think about the medical reasons for egg freezing such as if they develop cancer and have to go through chemotherapy or radiation. Of course, the likelihood of becoming pregnant after chemotherapy is still highly dependent on a woman’s age, according to BreastCancer.org.
Bridget Nolan, a woman in her mid-twenties, said she would consider egg freezing if she happened to get cancer and she was told that the treatment might hurt her chances of having a child later. However, she said it is just too expensive and would rather let fate decide.
“If I have a kid, I’d rather my body decide if it’s supposed to happen, rather than saving my young eggs for my older body,” she said.
Amanda Bachand, another woman in her mid-twenties, said she finds the entire egg freezing process daunting. The NYU Fertility Center site at NYU Langone Medical Center says that it involves “stimulating the woman’s ovaries with fertility medications containing follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)” in order for a woman to produce multiple eggs for retrieval. FSH is a daily injection that the woman gives herself for a week, and then the ovaries are monitored for an additional five to seven visits. During this time, the center advises, “The patient may experience some abdominal discomfort, weight gain and irritability.”
“For me, that sounds like it can take an incredibly emotional toll on your life without the guarantee of getting pregnant, for $20,000,” Bachand said.
Cost seems to be a very determining factor for many women. Bachand said that if she needed to freeze her eggs for health reasons and her employer was willing to pay for it, she would consider it as an option.
But while employers are offering women a choice, Marcy Darnovsky, executive director at the Center for Genetics and Society, warned NPR about the dangers of such pressure being put on women.
“When you’re in a situation of your employer offering you a choice,” she said in her interview, “you really have to be careful that you’re distinguishing between something that’s an expanded option and something that’s actually subtle or even explicit pressure to do what your employer wants you to do.”
It may be a question of why more companies don’t offer other services for women such as paid maternity leave or childcare instead of or in addition to egg freezing benefits. According to Care.com, the Family Medical Leave Act protects new mothers in companies with more than 50 employees by offering them 12 weeks of unpaid leave and job security. However, paid leave is still at the discretion of individual companies. Tech companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are ahead of the curve on this issue, but the United States, as a whole, still lags behind countries like Sweden, Canada, Serbia and Denmark, just to name a few.
Whatever method women choose to conceive children, and whether or not they decide to have children at all, is about just that: choice. Women want options when it comes to when or how they want to have children and we need to keep options open for them.
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