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Women's Health Education Program (WHEP) Blog Is Social Freezing Really Beneficial?

Scientist handling samples for cryopreservation.

May 9, 2022
By Architha Sudhakar, Drexel University College of Medicine

A new trend is spreading across Silicon Valley: In 2014 Apple and Facebook made headlines by offering to cover oocyte freezing for its employees as a part of health benefits. The move gained a lot of publicity and brought the tricky conversation of parenthood and the workforce back to the forefront. But while many media outlets lauded the companies’ efforts as progressive and innovative, I along with many others question whether “social freezing” is truly as beneficial as claimed.

People with ovaries are born with a set number of oocytes, which gradually decline in number beginning at menstruation, then steeply drop off after 37 years. Issues such as oocyte quality and chromosomal instability can impact fetuses of “geriatric” parents (pregnant people over 35 years). There are also significant parental risks associated with advanced age at pregnancy. All things considered, most obstetricians advise patients to consider pregnancy earlier if possible. However, the American workforce does not agree.

Although policies such as FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993) mandate companies to offer unpaid leave to employees, most people still face repercussions upon returning to work after giving birth. Loss of promotions, being shifted to less desirable projects, and smaller salary increases make maternity leave a difficult decision. Moreover, the hardships don’t end after pregnancy. Many women, especially in tech, cite motherhood as the primary reason for leaving the field. As such, it is no surprise that Silicon Valley is attempting to entice female employees into staying by encouraging them to put off pregnancy.

Since 2014, many other large companies have followed Apple and Facebook’s example. While social freezing itself is an innovative technology with many promising opportunities for patients, addressing the imbalance between parenthood and the workforce is not one of them. In fact, many journalists have voiced their doubts as to the true intentions of these corporations. Offering social freezing as a “perk” sends a subtle message to prioritize profession over family. Rather, if there was true interest in advancing women, incorporating policies such as flexible work arrangements, corporate-sponsored childcare, and extended leave would be more beneficial.

Women have more than earned their place in the American workforce. Their contribution deserves to be prioritized and valued. Companies that invest in women have historically been successful and made a lasting impact in society. As we continue to push past biological barriers through science, I encourage employers to push past social barriers and embrace women in their companies.


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Women's Health Education Program
Drexel University College of Medicine
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