"IT'S REALLY NOT JUST YOU"
This was the topic that dominated the discussion about egg freezing hosted by ELANZA Wellness at The Allbright Club in London.
Despite the fact that the number of egg freezing procedures has exploded in the last few years, it can still feel like you're the only one doing it. It can drudge up all kinds of emotions around the personal decisions or circumstances that may have lead you there. Why haven't I found the right partner? How can I balance the demands of my career and a family?
But before you slip into a spiral of self reflection, let's take a big step back... In reality, egg freezing is just a reflection of some larger societal shifts that are taking place in almost every country in the world. We uncovered some of what those are.
Shifting demographics (the increasing number of women who are childfree by choice, or by circumstance), the global "infertility crisis", the missing educated man phenomenon, workplace fertility benefits and whether policy change is the real route to reproductive freedom were just a few of the subjects highlighted in the recent panel conversation featuring ELANZA Wellness and some top British fertility experts.
The evening event, titled Everything You Need To Know About Fertility Preservation & Egg Freezing, was held at the gorgeous AllBright in London - a private members club focused on creating networking opportunities for women in business.
On the panel were three women with a LOT to say about fertility preservation:
Top fertility surgeon Miss Ephia Yasmin (trivia: in the UK surgeons are known as Miss, Mrs or Mr, rather than Dr!) who is the clinical lead of the Reproductive Medicine Unit at University College Hospital in London, the associate editor of The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and chair of the British Fertility Society policy and practice committee.
Also on the panel was Dr. Zeynep Gurtin, a globally-recognized lecturer in Women's Reproductive Health at UCL and visiting lecturer at Cambridge University. She is a sociologist interested in changing fertility patterns and in how modern women negotiate the novel reproductive choices and responsibilities they face.
Rounding off the panel of three was ELANZA Wellness co-founder and co-author of Everything Egg Freezing, Catherine Hendy.
Takeaways from the Talk
There was plenty to cover around reproductive health and fertility trends, with the panel able to offer clinical, sociological and personal insights.
The conversation began by touching on the egg freezing process and what "fertility preservation" actually means.
Women are waiting longer and longer to start families
Dr Zeynep Gurtin said that women who find themselves without a partner in their 30s or 40s often wonder: "what did I do wrong?" But when you dig into the changing demographics, this scenario starts to look less personal, more societal. People are settling down later and later, and there's even a term for it: "waithood".
Although this trend impacts both men and women, biologically women face different realities if they want to become mothers. The shift is particularly pronounced in highly educated people living in big cities - as Catherine Hendy pointed out, the average age of a first-time mother in New York or San Francisco, for instance, is now early 30s.
Delving deeper into this topic, the panel discussed the sociological research of Dr Zeynep Gurtin and her corresponding researcher from Yale, anthropologist Dr Marcia Inhorn.
There's a university gender gap
Dr Inhorn's work has looked into the "oversupply" of educated women comparative to men and led to the theory that many of the women who are freezing their eggs because (as they report) they can't find a suitable partner find themselves in that position because there are not enough educated men in the world. A Yale study of egg freezing women found nearly half had a master’s degree and over a third had an MD, PhD or the equivalent. ELANZA Wellness' Catherine Hendy made the point that old expectations die hard, but that perhaps traditional social expectations that a woman's partner is more educated and the higher earner will evolve to address the new demographic realities. In the future, maybe it won't cause raised eyebrows if a woman has a younger partner, or if he's a blue-collar worker while she holds an advanced degree. Dr Zeynep Gurtin made the point that the "university gender gap" is at a record high, and female graduates are expected to significantly outnumber male graduates over the next twenty years.
An interesting turn in the discussion was looking at the bigger picture of satisfaction around motherhood and other life choices, not just those of women who remain single for longer than previous generations or who are delaying parenthood.
Is the grass always greener?
While women without a partner or child by circumstance (not choice) might look longingly at the lifestyle of women in the suburbs with two toddlers and a labrador, the opposite might also be true.
Dr Zeynep Gurtin spoke about her upcoming book which analyses comparative experiences of women living all kinds of lives in their 30s and 40s and finds the concepts of "contentedness" and "happiness" aren't as clear cut as they might first appear. We can't wait for it to be published!
A more in-depth analysis of the societal influences on egg freezing can be found in the book, Everything Egg Freezing: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide to Doing it Right.
About The AllBright
The members club, which started out in London, has recently expanded to Los Angeles and is set to open its doors in New York and Washington DC in 2020.
It gets the ELANZA seal of approval thanks to its topical and thought-provoking cultural programming and nailing the ideal "serious yet sophisticated" atmosphere (...and serving up a delicious cappuccino to boot.)
Follow @elanzawellness on social media or join our mailing list (below) to be the first to hear about future events with our partner spaces.
To enquire about attending the complimentary ELANZA fertility workshop at The Allbright in Los Angeles on 20th February 2020 from 6.30pm, please send an email to email@example.com.