Ovums On Demand

Virginia Hughes reports on an experimental new procedure:

In the 1970s, fertility treatments such as egg freezing emerged as a way to extend the upper limit of the childbearing years. But these came with caveats of their own. [For one patient] egg freezing would have required two weeks of hormone pills and injections, and frequent ultrasounds to monitor the ripening eggs – a regime that can cause mood swings and didn't fit into her gruelling work schedule. And each of these expensive, time-consuming, hormone-heavy cycles would only yield around 12 eggs. By contrast, if you bank ovarian tissue, you can theoretically preserve thousands of eggs after one short laparoscopic surgery.

In a follow-up post, Hughes doubts whether the procedure would really be a panacea:

If we had a technology that could stop the clock, would a bunch of Good Things happen to women?

Would we earn more money before having a kid, allowing us to give said kid better medical care and more educational opportunities? Would employers, no longer at risk of losing a young employee in her 30s, finally start paying us what they pay men for the same job? Would more women stay in science? Without the terrifying "use-it-or-lose-it" voice in the back of our heads, would more of us realize that, actually, we don’t want any of those smelly babies?

I wish I could say that if only the technology existed, it would give women (and their partners) more choices and help us make better decisions. But I’m not sure it would. There’s a surprisingly strong cultural resistance to the idea of delaying motherhood. When I mentioned this story to colleagues and peers, I heard over and over again, "Yeah, but is it good for the kid to be the one with the old mom?" or "I wouldn’t have enough energy to do it at that age" or "At some point, women have to make up their minds."