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Frozen egg birth begins a reproduction revolution for women
October 22, 2002
by Amara Graps

Recent news in Britain announced that a woman who had become pregnant using her own frozen eggs gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Previous attempts in the last decade produced eggs not viable for reproduction. According to this report, the procedure looks to be reliable now. All of a woman's eggs are present at the beginning of her life, and they age, so that no matter how fit she might be in her 40s and later, her reproductive ability declines from her mid-30s on. Now a woman can postpone having children until later (40s, 50s), and still produce a healthy child because the freeze/thaw procedure allows the eggs to be stored almost indefinitely for use at a later date.

I can't think of a single issue more important to a woman in her 20's and 30's who is very actively pursuing her interests/career but can't find the time to raise a child, unless she quits her work. Women of age 20s/30s-something usually must think how to factor in twenty years (including 3-5+ years of little/no work) of raising a child at the same time of building their careers.

With this technology, the woman has twenty+ more years of 'buffer time' in which she can build her career to something supportive for herself + family. In our society, there are plenty of smart, fit, capable women in their 50s who are strong and energetic enough to run after a toddler-on-the-loose. If they had frozen their eggs at age 20, they, at a much older age would have a reasonably high chance of bearing a healthy child. Not only that, but their careers would have the same kind of longevity and safety and support to provide a good living for both of them.

The first use for this procedure was thought to be for women who develop cancer. Because of chemotherapy, the women would want to protect their chances of reproducing later when the therapy is finished. But I believe that the uses for this procedure are much much broader, and have implications for society that are greater than that produced by the birth control pill in the 1960s.

I see the following changes and implications as a result of this technology:

The workforce will become deeper and broader: Women workers who cover a wider spectrum of of ages and experiences will fill more market niches.

Young couples who postponed starting a family now have more money and more time to devote to their careers.

Single women who find themselves mateless during their usual 'prime' years, will now have time to build a better life to support themselves and their children (later, and with or without partners). This leads to the idea of what support for a child and the family unit means. The 'coupling-for-family-support' becomes more optional, if the woman does not depend on the man's support for raising their child because she can better support herself/themselves. The couple might still do it because they want to, but they now both have more choices.

There will be companies catering to frozen egg donors and this could start a thriving industry (another niche for Alcor, perhaps?).

Businesses will now have to accommodate older, more established, employees in their 40's as they begin their new families. These same companies will find that their younger employees are now more educated than they were before.

Governments will try to pass new laws to try to get their hands on the money being made in the new markets that spring up.

Women wanting the more traditional roles will create a backlash against those who want to freeze their eggs.

I suggest to you young (20-30s) women out there to find a reputable clinic that performs this procedure and freeze some of your eggs. I also suggest to the rest of you to digest this new information and prepare yourself for the waves of changes in society that I believe will occur because of this technology.

Dr. Amara Lynn Graps, Max-Planck-Institute fur Kernphysik, Heidelberg, Deutschland and Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Roma/Frascati, Italia

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