[P]erhaps Silicon Valley is simply seeing the future before the rest of us do. Many talented female employees are balancing a desire to climb the corporate ladder with an unwillingness to foreclose the possibility of having children. The executives who’ve embraced the idea of paying for egg-freezing coverage are doing their best to meet the needs of these workers. That said, the fact that a growing number of working women are interested in the procedure is in itself an acknowledgment that it is difficult to combine child-rearing with the all-consuming, more-than-full-time professional work that we find in the uppermost echelons of the American economy. …
[I]f we want to achieve gender equality by changing attitudes, it can’t just be male attitudes that change. Men will have to become more interested in spending time with their children, but women will also have to become less interested. If the miracle of childbirth is a central component of what bonds women to their offspring, and pregnancy envy is a force that drives men to accumulate wealth, outsourcing pregnancy might be the best solution.
In August, Zoltan Istvan, author of The Transhumanist Wager, touted the potential benefits of artificial wombs for women, from the most obvious (“females would no longer have to solely bear responsibility for childbirth”) to the less obvious (“ectogenesis could unchain women from the home”). Even some of the criticisms of ectogenesis—that it will reduce the intimacy between mother and child—could be a good thing if your concern is that when it comes to raising children, the attitudes of women and men are too different.
Annalee Newitz is totally on board:
An artificial womb – now there is a technology that could transform everything. No more paying for those frozen eggs or expensive fertility treatments. No more potentially fatal pregnancies and births. No more women terrified that their “biological clocks” are ticking; no more of the pain and discomfort of pregnancy. Women and men would be liberated from having to use (and often abuse) women’s bodies to make cute little humans.
If you look back at the twentieth century, it’s undeniable that one of the most important technologies to emerge – one that changed social relationships, families, and our understanding of biology – was the birth control pill. As Jonathan Eig argues in a fascinating new book on the topic, the Pill was the culmination of decades of research. It was a major scientific breakthrough. And it transformed the lives of everyone, male and female alike. Women could enjoy sex the way men always had, without fear that one moment of pleasure would have life-altering consequences.
If the Pill brought us into the future, imagine where an artificial womb would take us.
Meanwhile, back to the in-tray, a reader disputes the argument that young adults are better suited for parenthood:
I’m a 46-year-old father of a three-year-old and a nine-month-old. My partner is 48. We met in our early 40s, and we tried to start a family when we knew it was right, but we couldn’t conceive the usual way or through in-vitro fertilization. We eventually had a donor egg and have since given birth to two beautiful boys.
I do have less energy then I did at 25 or 35, which makes it more difficult to chase the kids around or stay up nights bottle-feeding (or, in my partner’s case, breastfeeding). However, I believe I’m a much better father now then I would have been at an earlier point in my life. Having been able to experience life has made me much more patient, content, and laid-back.
I grew up in a dysfunctional home with alcoholic parents, and by doing some work on myself, I’m now able to spot my demons and manage them much better than when I could in my youthful, high-energy days. Plus, my salary is triple what it was in my 20s, and I’ve been able to establish myself in a job that allows me flexibility to deal with the surprises that my two little devils are waiting to unleash. We’ve both upped our life insurance, and we realize that no early retirement is in our future. We are very happy with this lot in life.
And another questions the efficacy of egg-freezing:
The real issue with the procedure is that the odds of producing a live baby on any one IVF cycle are no better than 50%, without using frozen eggs. The typical egg retrieval is 5 to 12 eggs, which are used for one cycle, with the take-home-baby rate dropping as the number of eggs retrieved drops. There’s an upward limit on how many eggs can be retrieved, because too much stimulation causes Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. If the number of eggs retrieved is on the low side (closer to 5 than 12), the woman would need to do more than one retrieval to reach a 50% chance of taking home a baby when she chooses to use her eggs.
A woman who does two retrievals, each of which retrieves over 10 eggs, can do two IVF cycles, giving her something around a 60% to 70% chance of taking home a baby, still not great odds, if her other choice was to have children at a younger age. Each retrieval is a month of daily hormone injections, medical monitoring, and an outpatient procedure, none of it without risks (see Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome).
Even The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists doesn’t recommend egg freezing as a way to delay fertility. Yet the idea is being pushed and discussed in the media, rarely with much skepticism.
This is how the free market American medical system works. A new technology gets pushed, usually by the people who stand to benefit, such as fertility clinics eager to expand their client base beyond infertile couples. The media picks it up, often without questioning or investigating the science or the numbers, despite the fact that they are out there and easily Googled. There’s no systematic process of questioning the hypothesis pushed.
Well there is at the Dish, at least – your emails. Another reader takes a new approach:
I only have a moment, as I’m one of those older parents (53) with a 12 year old who I need to get to bed, but I have one word that I’d like to put out there in response to the “need” to freeze eggs so that it’s possible to become a parent later in life: ADOPTION!
How about if more companies offered adoption benefits. That way, employees of all ages and fertility “abilities” could become parents if and when they wanted to, AND more children in desperate need of homes would have the opportunity to find their forever families. In the frantic quest to have their “own” child, so many people are missing out on the amazing blessing of adoption, which can be a win-win-win – for a child, the parent(s) and society.
Having had children by birth in my 20s, and another by adoption in my 40s, I can personally attest that energy levels decrease; but, having come to parenthood both by birth and adoption, I can also attest that each of my children is 100% “mine” and that the joys and challenges and miracles of parenthood are gifts beyond compare at any age.
I wonder if all of the companies that offer egg-freezing benefits also offer comprehensive adoption benefits. If they don’t, they certainly should!
Follow the whole discussion thread here.