Two Things Egg Freezing Might Mean?

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.

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6 responses to “Two Things Egg Freezing Might Mean?

  1. It’s interesting that it’s still only young healthy people capable of reproducing but I suppose now you can freeze your young healthyy self and thaw it out when your an old woman. I do suspect its a scam to get women to give over their eggs for free so they can steal them and sell them pretending they came from anonymous donors. Women will never be the wiser what’s the harm it’s not as if it’s their kids anyway right? Because they did not give birth? That’s the thought process that went through the minds of doctors at UC Irvine at least

  2. none of the above- i predict that it will strengthen the intent criteria, in my view the worst criteria of them all

    • What about those young women undergoing cancer treatments who without egg freezing would be unable to have kids?

      I personally know someone who had ovarian cancer in college was able to freeze her eggs and then after she got married was able to have kids with the eggs she froze.

  3. Thank you Julie. Your blog is one of my favourites too. The issues you raise are fascinating ones. Anthropology increasingly has important things to say about kinship and who is and isn’t a parent or a relative. I have recently come across some publicity for a book called What kinship is-and is not by Marshall Sahlins. I’ve sent for a copy but in the meantime have found a commentary on it by UK based anthropologist Jeanette Edwards who introduces the topic of donor conceived half-siblings as being of interest to her discipline because they have both ‘natural’ connections but are also disconnected by the fact of being raised in another family. The dynamics that result from such relationships, she argues, are quite different to siblings raised in the same family. There are other very interesting points as well. Have a look from this link http://www.haujournal.org/index.php/hau/article/view/hau3.2.018/764 I’d blog about this myself if I wasn’t incredibly busy at the moment and going on holiday on Sunday. Such a lot to think about.

    • Thanks for those links/cites. I’m fascinated by the ways in which our notions of family and relatives constantly changes. And with the capacity to devise language to refer to how people are related to you. It may be important to people to distinguish between the half-siblings who are half-genetic siblings but live in different families and the half-siblings who you are raised with. I can certainly see why it would be. Calling them both by the same term (half-siblings) could obscure important meaning. I’d guess it is only a matter of time before some language arrives to make clear the distinction.

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