Egg Storage and the empowerment of women

By Dr. Nick Walker 2 years ago
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Traditionally, fathers are less effected by the birth of a child than the mother. From the point that the couple realizes that they are pregnant, there are certain restrictions that that woman must adhere to. Certain foods, alcohol and even exercise become a concern for the mother, all while the father-to-be merrily carries on as if little has changed. Not to mention that the mother has to carry and nourish another human for 9 months, an immense expectation on her body.

Then the child is born and still, the bulk of the change is traditionally on the mother. If she breastfeeds, diet restrictions still apply. And for whatever reason, the mother is expected to take the lead on raising the child during the early months. This is further reinforced by extended maternity leave and only a short period of paternity leave. All this time, the father is able to continue his career, unhindered.

New research in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology shows that whether or not a new mom takes maternity leave, it seems to affect her co-worker’s opinions of her. The study found that women are viewed less favourably when expecting a baby, regardless of whether they planned to take maternity leave or not1. Add to that the fact that the most important years in an individual’s professional development fall inconveniently during the age when woman are most likely to fall pregnant and what results is women having to make an unbelievably unfair choice; to focus on her career or motherhood?

Egg storage can help to mitigate this professional disadvantage. Egg storage allows women to extend the time period that they are able to safely have children. Usually, pregnancies later than the age of 40 are not advised, however if a woman stores eggs earlier in life, those eggs remain healthy and frozen in time. Eggs, stored at -196 degrees Celsius in liquid nitrogen, remain unchanged. With recent innovations in egg cryopreservation, IVF success rates are now comparable when using frozen eggs to using fresh eggs. This allows her to choose to have children when she is ready and not because the dreaded biological clock is ticking.  This can allow women to focus on their careers and leaves no excuse for the gender pay gap that employers so often blame on the perceived burden that child birth places on a professional woman.

Innovative companies such as Apple and Facebook are offering to freeze eggs for female employees in an effort to attract more women on to their staff. These companies reportedly contribute up to USD 20 000 towards egg cryopreservation. And it would seem that a fair number of women are using egg cryopreservation to focus on their careers. An estimated 24% of women who store their eggs now do so for “professional reasons”2

Egg storage, for the first time in human history, empowers women to make choices on their terms about when to start a family.

References:

  1. Should I stay or should I go? Implications of maternity leave choice for perceptions of working mothers. (2017). Morgenroth and Heilman. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
  2. What do reproductive-age women who undergo oocyte cryopreservation think about the process as a means to preserve fertility? (2013). Hodes-Wertz, Druckenmiller, Smith, Noyes. Fertility and Sterility.
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 Dr. Nick Walker

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