In April 2014, the cover of Bloomberg Businessweek read “Freeze Your Eggs, Free Your Career.”
The woman featured, Brigitte Adams, was supposed to be the poster child of “empowered” women — women who don’t have to sacrifice their career aspirations in order to find love or have children, women who could essentially “have it all.” Several years later, though, the tale is far from its anticipated triumphant ending.
As a single woman working in tech marketing for several reputable companies, Adams spent $19,000 to freeze her eggs. Already in her late 30s, she planned to continue focusing on her career for several years before searching for a husband and settling down. Freezing her eggs, she thought, would give her the freedom to follow this timeline.
On her 45th birthday, however, things didn’t look as she had once hoped they would. So, still single, she decided to unfreeze her 11 eggs and, with the help of a sperm donor, start her family. Again, things didn’t go according to plan. Every single egg, for one reason or another, failed.
Egg-Freezing Has a Disappointing Success Rate
Stories like this aren’t the exception. A woman who freezes 10 eggs at age 36 has only a 30-60% chance of having a baby with them. Many factors, such as age and number of eggs frozen, affect the chances, but positive outcomes are far from guaranteed.
A woman who freezes 10 eggs at age 36 has only a 30-60% chance of having a baby with them.
NYU Langone, a frontrunner of egg freezing, started to offer this option to women in 2004. About 150 babies have been born using thawed eggs since the program began. While that may sound like a high number, it only represents a roughly 50% success rate. Thus, many who choose this path will tragically never become mothers.
Technology Gives the Illusion of Control over Our Fertility
Aside from the less-than-promising success rates, there are deeper issues at hand with freezing your eggs. Egg-freezing seems to epitomize the troubling narrative of today’s society: We want control, and we don’t want to be inconvenienced. We want everything to go according to our plans (even if it negates science, truth, and human nature), and we don’t want to have to make any sacrifices. These two things, independent from each other, are an issue. Together, they create calamities.
The sad fact is that these women are victims of the dangerous and destructive insistence that women are only "impressive" if we live our lives with the same goals – and worse, on the same timeline – as men. We're robbing entire generations of women of the joy and meaning they could find in marriage and motherhood because we're more concerned about being #bossbabes than paying attention to our natural inclinations.
We're more concerned about being #bossbabes than paying attention to our natural inclinations.
We need to examine a society that puts such a premium on career and financial achievements that we're willing to dangerously delay, or even permanently destroy, our ability to bear children naturally. Beyond the tragedies of women who spend their life savings on freezing eggs and IVF, are the real biological concerns of an increasing number of geriatric mothers. Women over 35 are at a higher risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and other potentially life-threatening (for either mother or baby) complications.
Sacrifice in a 21st Century World
It's understandable that in a world where we can get virtually anything on demand, that women want to control their fertility. But at the same time, we want to control it in a way that doesn’t in any way place burdens upon us. Women don't want to spend their 20s settling down and starting a family – they want to treat it as a trial run for their 30s. It's only after our youth and most fertile years are frittered away that we may realize our mistake, and that's often too late.
The hard truth of life is that we can’t have it all. We’re often faced with decisions that require some sacrifice — a concept that's becoming increasingly foreign.
Science is not yet advanced enough to completely erase certain biological realities. Unfortunately for many women, they've bought into the lie that trading the chance at having a family for the accolades of a successful career is worth the risk. The fact remains that most women can't live on the same timeline as men — and society shouldn't be asking us too. We need to carve out our own path forward, one that aligns with our own unique goals, desires, and biology as women.
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