Social Freezing: Why Women Freeze Their Eggs

“There are simply not enough well-educated men”
Why women have their eggs frozen

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When women have their eggs frozen, it’s not about their careers – it’s more about missing the right partner: There are simply not enough well-educated men, says anthropologist Marcia C. Inhorn.

“The biological clock is ticking” – a sentence that every woman over 30 knows. If you want to have children, you have to take it easy with family planning: from the age of 35 it becomes difficult and from the age of 40 it becomes almost impossible to have a child. The so-called “social freezing” or “egg freezing” promises women to delay their fertility and have children independently when they want. But the freezing of the Eggs are extremely expensive – and are no guarantee of a successful pregnancy.

Anthropologist Marcia C. Inhorn deals with the reasons why women undergo the physically demanding procedure in her book “Motherhood on Ice: The Mating Gap and Why Women Freeze Their Eggs.” To do this, the Yale professor surveyed 150 American women who had their eggs frozen. Their insight: There simply aren’t enough well-educated men.

In an interview with the Austrian “Standard”, the American explains how the imbalance between well-educated women and men is related to family planning and what dating apps and Peter Pan have to do with it.

What is Social Freezing?

The term refers to the freezing of unfertilized eggs for a so-called “non-medical reason”. The technology was originally intended as “medical freezing” for cancer patients. A woman’s mature eggs can be preserved by freezing and placed in the uterus to be fertilized at a later date. This increases the chance of pregnancy, even after the age of 35. However, the so-called “cryopreservation” of the eggs does not guarantee a successful pregnancy and the patients have to cover the costs of around 4,500 to 6,000 euros per round of treatment themselves.

According to Marcia Inhorn’s study, the women who have their eggs frozen are, on average, 36 years old, well-educated and single. Actually too late, say doctors – because the earlier the eggs are removed, the higher the number and quality of the germ cells.

This is the real reason why women freeze their eggs

“For women, it’s not about wanting to plan their lives perfectly. They use the technology because their lives haven’t exactly gone according to plan because they’re having a hard time finding a suitable partner,” explains Inhorn to journalist Lisa Breit in the interview. In doing so, she negates the cliché of the career-oriented woman who puts her desire to have children on the back burner with the help of “social freezing”.

“There are not enough well-educated men”

In her book, the American professor uses the term “mating gap”, which means something like “mating gap”. He describes the disparity between educated women and men. Heterosexual women in the USA are increasingly less likely to meet a partner with the same level of education – even in the EU, women between 25 and 34 are more likely to have a university degree than men of the same age. For most of the women in Inhorn’s study, the lack of a partner was the deciding factor in the decision to “egg freeze”: “You might call it picky, but these well-educated women simply don’t want to get involved with someone who is less educated.” The problem would be that men would often feel intimidated if their partner was more successful than themselves.

What Peter Pan has to do with family planning

Other study participants had no problem finding a partner. Their motivation for preserving the eggs was different ideas about joint family planning. Her partner wasn’t ready to take on responsibility, says Inhorn, and calls these men “Peter Pans” – after the fantasy figure who never grows up. “For women who are in their late 30s and have a strong desire to have children, such partners are a waste of time. Remaining childless is a legitimate choice, but you have to talk about it honestly at the beginning of a relationship,” says the professor in the interview.

While one of the goals in life used to be to start a family, younger generations are now increasingly questioning parenthood. Dating apps in particular would contribute to this development; you no longer have to commit to one partner – this leads to women who want to have children doubting themselves at some point and seeing “social freezing” as their last hope.

Voluntarily single mothers

Women who ultimately realize their desire to have children without a partner and voluntarily decide to become single mothers are called “Single Mothers by Choice”. However, Inhorn finds the term misleading: “These women were very much hoping to find a potential father, but it just didn’t work.” The following family model is particularly new: women who have children using donor sperm team up with other mothers who use the same donor’s sperm. This means their children can then grow up with their biological half-siblings.

According to the expert, “social freezing” will continue to be out of the reach of many women in the future. The costs for the hormone treatment and the procedure are simply too high. The method is also very physically demanding – women who do it are “badass”.

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