Ambivalences, anxieties and ambiguities: the experience and practice of social egg freezing
As the average age of motherhood in many Western countries continues to rise, the spectacle of the older mother and the trend towards delayed childbearing has been the subject of much public debate and interest. Concurrent to this trend has been the development and use of a new form of fertility preservation-social egg freezing. Currently, beyond a very small number of qualitative exploratory studies, little is known about women’s motivations for, or experiences of, social egg freezing. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 31 female users of social egg freezing in the UK, USA and Norway I will explore how a fear of future regret and blame significantly shaped my participants’ decision to make use of the technology. Furthermore, by highlighting the multiple ambivalences and anxieties of female users of this technology, as well as exploring the ambiguous and the currently quite modest ‘success rates’ being observed with the procedure, I will demonstrate the inherently paradoxical nature of this ‘reproductive technology’ and will suggest it may be better understood as a ‘non-reproductive technology’. Finally, I will explore how current UK regulatory frameworks and practices, with regards to the storage and use of frozen eggs, promote contradictory messages about the ‘right time’ to undergo the procedure and currently work to exclude less affluent women from accessing this form of ‘boutique medicine’ (Clarke et al, 2003; Jackson, 2016).
Kylie Baldwin is Sociologist and Mildred Blaxter Postdoc with the Centre for Reproduction Research at De Montfort University (DMU) in the UK. She has recently completed my PhD which explored women’s use and experience of a new form of fertility preservation: social egg freezing. Her work has received widespread media attention and has been featured and discussed on the BBC, Radio 4, as well as in The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The Times. She is the convenor of the British Sociological Associations Human Reproduction Study Group and she runs several research events each year. In addition to holding the position of Mildred Blaxter Postdoc I am a Senior Lecturer at DMU and I teach on the Sociology and Health Studies degree programme.