One of my favorite blogs is Olivia’s View. There’s a new post there today that has set me thinking. It’s very brief but it adds in to other things.
What’s noted there is that women over the age of 44 are very likely to have trouble achieving a full term pregnancy with their own 44-year-old eggs. I suppose this isn’t news in a general way, but the detailed findings lend stronger support to something we probably knew anyway.
So what will this mean? Long term it seems to me this is good news for the burgeoning business of egg preservation. Young women (say in their early 20s) will be all the more eager to freeze their eggs. The more clear it becomes that you will lose fertility as you age, the more appealing preserving your youthful fertility will be.
But this is only useful for young women. For a woman of 35 or 38 or 41 egg freezing cannot look very interesting. It wasn’t around at the time it would have mattered to them. For those women the obvious choice (and this is what the blog post is about) will be using eggs provided by other, younger, women.
Now presumably there will be more of those about, again because of egg freezing. In the past using third-party eggs depended on a lot of coordination of cycles, etc. Now there’s every reason to assume it will become more and more like using third-party sperm. On-line shopping, shipping when you need it and so on. I don’t know that I’ve seen much about it, but I would expect to see a rise in use of third-party eggs.
And that leads me to think about what this all might mean. Again, a couple of general thoughts come to mind. First, any time anyone uses third-party gametes it seems to me it undermines–just a little–the idea that gametes are what make you a parent/not a parent. After all, women who use third-party eggs will be parents to children they are not genetically related to.
Second, I wonder about how this leads to an understanding of pregnancy and parenthood. Women using third-party eggs will still be pregnant/give birth. That, too, gives them a claim to parenthood. Here there’s a gendered difference–pretty obviously. Men who use third-party sperm have no alternative biologically based claim to parenthood–they’re using performance/intent. But women can add pregnancy. Does this make these women “more” parents? Does it amplify the importance of pregnancy? Or does it diminish it–because men and women using third-party gametes will be equally understood to be parents?
No answers here, only questions for today.