The End of the Biological Clock?

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The Washington Post reports that egg-freezing is on the rise, especially among single career women. More women are using fertility services to freeze their own eggs with the hope of becoming pregnant and bearing biological offspring in their 40s and beyond. The Post quotes a cancer survivor advocacy group that recently surveyed 430 clinics nationwide and found that 138 of them freeze and store eggs, up from 58 three years ago.

The increasing practice raises many questions, first about the health of children conceived and carried to term from frozen eggs. The first such child was reported born in Australia in 1986, so there hasn't been time to study the long-term health effects. Science simply does not know and won't know for some time whether children born of frozen eggs (some frozen for a decade or beyond) will suffer health consequences.

Then there's the reliability question: A new University of Southern California study shows that 50 percent of women who used frozen eggs became pregnant. That rate is quite high. Success rates elsewhere vary widely, and the age at which the woman freezes her eggs has a huge impact on the possibility of success, with chances of success rising for younger women.

Penultimately, there's the cost question. The Post reports, "Egg-freezing costs $9,000 to $15,000 per attempt, plus $350 to $500 a year to store the eggs. Although some women opt to freeze their eggs to avoid moral dilemmas created by standard infertility treatments that frequently result in leftover embryos, most are choosing it to allow later childbearing."

And lastly, there are all sorts of ethical questions, including whether it's good for children to be born to older women. If the United States had more family-friendly workplaces, would women need to delay motherhood? And will egg-freezing increase the percentage of unwed mothers, and if so, is it in society's best interest to permit clinics to profit from the procedure?