Eggs on ice: New profit center for the baby business

Posted by Marcy Darnovsky on August 31st, 2008

A growing number of assisted reproduction companies are now promoting egg freezing and banking for women who are - or can be encouraged to become - nervous about their biological clocks. The Washington Post said in May 2007 that "at least 138" fertility clinics offer this service; a more recent estimate put the number at "more than 220."

This despite the fact that American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the fertility industry's own trade organization, put out a press release last fall titled "ASRM Urges Caution, Strong Counseling for Women Seeking Egg Freezing." ASRM says the technique is experimental - success rates are tiny, effects on the resulting children uncertain - and warns that for now it's appropriate only for women with cancer or other illnesses who may become infertile as a result of treatments for such as chemotherapy.

"Social egg freezing" has also been widely covered by media from women's magazines (Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan) to the business press (Wall Street Journal, Forbes) to the most mainstream of newspapers and broadcast outlets (New York Times, NPR, Newsweek, NBC Nightly News, ABC News). Much of the coverage could easily be mistaken for an infomercial - which explains why it's helpfully collected on the website of the egg freezing company Extend Fertility, whose tagline is "Fertility. Freedom. Finally."

An article this week in the Washington Post falls squarely into the infomercial genre - it fails even to mention the ASRM's cautions. For a far different treatment (not included on Extend Fertility's website), see the July-August newsletter of the National Women's Health Network. That article's title asks whether egg freezing is an example of "Marketing Ploys for Career-oriented Women." Unlike other coverage of social egg freezing, it observes that egg retrieval is invasive and risky for women. And it notes that

advocates of egg freezing use alarming statistics in a misleading fashion to encourage women to create unnecessary back-up plans based on an ineffective, expensive, and unproven technology.

Previously on Biopolitcial Times:

Posted in Assisted Reproduction, Egg Retrieval, Marcy Darnovsky's Blog Posts, Reproductive Justice, Health & Rights


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