July 26, 2018

Why do women freeze their eggs? It isn't what you think.

Daily Briefing

    The stereotype that women who freeze their eggs are usually doing so to focus on their careers might be misguided, according to a study presented on July 2 at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology's conference in Spain, Heather Murphy writes for the New York Times.

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    About the study

    For the study—which has yet to be released—researchers interviewed 150 American and Israeli women who had frozen their eggs. In the United States, the women generally lived on the East Coast or in the Bay area. The women ranged in age from 20 to 42, with the majority between 35 and 39. Roughly 85% were single, and the majority were heterosexual.

    The researchers asked the women to share their "egg freezing stories" and then analyzed the responses to identify the primary motives for freezing.

    It's not about the career

    The researchers found that, contrary to stereotypes, the primary reason these women froze their eggs wasn't to support their career planning. Rather, about 50% of the single women said they acted due to uncertainty about when they'd meet a partner with whom they could build a family, according to the researchers.

    The second-largest group were women who froze their eggs because they had recently experienced a breakup or divorce. This was followed by a group of women who were deployed overseas and decided to first freeze their eggs, as well as a small handful of women who were planning to have a baby on their own.

    According to the researchers, career planning came up as a factor in their interviews just twice. In fact, the researchers found most of the women in their mid-to-late 30s were already established in their careers when they chose to freeze their eggs.

    About 15% of the women in the study were in a relationship, and their reasons for freezing their eggs were similar to those expressed by single women: Their partner was either not ready to build a family or not interested in building one at all.

    According to Marcia Inhorn, one of the authors on the study and a medical anthropologist from Yale University, "The stereotype that these ambitious career women are freezing their eggs for the purposes of their career—that's really inaccurate at the present time." She added that these women "weren't freezing to advance; they were facing the overarching problem of partnership."

    Why can't women find partners to have children with?

    Some researchers believe the explanation for why heterosexual women might not be able to find men to start a family with is simple demographics, Murphy writes.

    "Women in many developed countries … are now more educated than men," Murphy writes, which "could be creating a dearth of appealing male partners for these women" (Murphy, New York Times, 7/3).

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