Delaying Motherhood: Employment Incentive?

Delaying Motherhood: Will it work?

As you may have probably heard by now, Apple and Facebook had stated that they would be covering up to $20,000 of their employees’ egg freezing costs. The statement has received mixed reactions so far and, it seems that the debate will continue for a long time.

So what is egg freezing exactly? It is a procedure known as oocyte cryopreservation in which, a woman’s eggs are extracted, frozen and stored for future use. A round of freezing eggs costs something between $7,000-$12,000, plus the annual fees for drugs and storage that vary between $1,000 and $3,000. 

In 2012, The American Society for Reproductive Medicine lifted up the “experimental” title from the procedure yet warned against misleading women and it stated “Marketing this technology for the purpose of deferring childbearing may give women false hope and encourage women to delay childbearing”.

Traditionally, the method was used for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy yet Dr. Jamie Grifo, the program director of the New York University Fertility Center, states that in 2013, the majority of egg freezing cases were elective.

The supporters claim that the application gives the women the option to choose when they would like to have children without the pressure of a ticking biological clock. The experience seems to be psychologically liberating as well, as 53% of the women who have frozen their eggs describe the experience as “empowering”.

Despite its advantages, the new policy should also be evaluated from a critical perspective. First and foremost, egg freezing is no guarantee of getting pregnant. In addition to ASRM’s warning on “giving women false hope”, National Center for Health Research explains that “fewer than 1 in 4 women can expect to get pregnant and have a baby” after successfully freezing the eggs.

It is also important to look at how this coverage will affect the culture of the organization. Seven years ago, Christy  Jones, the CEO of Extend Fertility, reached to companies to inquire about including egg freezing in their benefits yet got a pushback as they stated “Well, we don’t want to seem Machiavellian, that we’re paying to freeze a woman’s eggs so she just keeps working harder”. Such attitude might exacerbate the discrimination against women in career advancement issues, as their colleagues will have the impression that they could have waited. Glenn Cohen from Harvard Law School examines the implications of such policies and asks if such policies imply that work and pregnancy are incompatible. 

Addressing, the alarmingly low numbers of women in technology should start with treating the causes, not the symptoms. Currently, women account for only 30% and 31% of the workforce in Apple and Facebook, respectively.  Additionally, according to a study by the Center for Work-Life Policy, 56% of women in tech, leave their careers at the mid-level, double the quit rate of men. Fortune’s study on 716 women who left tech shows that 68% cites motherhood as a reason to leave tech although only a small 6% wants to be stay home mothers. Most mothers would have happily returned to their jobs if the maternity policies were better. These numbers, combined with a 19% of women who’s frozen their eggs saying “they might have had a child earlier if their workplace had been more flexible” from New York University’s 2013 survey, show that the real problem lies within the compatibility of parenting and work. 

Although, tech companies offer long maternity leaves and cash support, some fail to offer resources to support their employees in parenting. Facebook, for instance, announced plans for a $120 million housing community with amenities that even included a bicycle repair shop and a doggy care but no daycare for kids.  Similar to Michael Lee, I would have preferred to see these companies come up with creative solutions that changed the corporate cultures without penalizing women for motherhood.

Lastly, no matter what our stance is in the issue, I think we all should consider the following questions posed in Quora:

  1. What effect does this benefit have on fetal/maternal health and aggregate health care spending?
  1. Is there a comparable benefit provided to men?
  1. What behavioral effects will this have on affected employees?


Please comment below and get a discussion started!


Mother Studies in the Academy & in the Press

On October 8th, Martha Joy RoseRoksana Badaruddoja, and Laura Tropp discussed media, politics and representations of pregnancy, motherhood, and families in popular culture at Manhattan College. A curated exhibit is on display in the O’Malley Library, designed and executed by Ms. Rose.

Two weeks ago she submitted a proposal for an “Individualized Studies” program where she is currently enrolled in a Masters of Liberal Studies at The Graduate Center of NYC. The individualized study is in “Mother Studies.”The program is designed by Ms. Rose and supervised by Dr. Barbara Katz Rothman.


Maternal and Fetal Health

In the preface to Robert Woods’ Death Before Birth (2009), he notes that “the circumstances that affect infants and children after live births are closely associated with their experience in the womb and at delivery.”  While he discussed this in a historial perspective, the topic is still very important. First, let’s take a look at Woods’ work:

Death Before Birth is the first to really tackle fetal health and mortality in a historical perspective, from the 17th to early 20th centuries. While examining an immense amount of statistics, Woods notes that interpreting records for fetal health and mortality is difficult due to the disparities in descriptions and record keeping between hospitals. Definitions become important as the lines between perinatal, neonatal, and stillbirth blur. Scandinavian nations had more thorough and accurate records in the 18th century, while Britain scantily kept records prior to 1927.

Woods notes that the turning point in maternal/fetal health and mortality is in the late 1930s and early 1940s when antibiotics became available, which reduced puerperal infection. As technology advanced, the dangers of childbirth were further reduced through the use of ultrasound, blood transfusion, prenatal care, induction for post-term pregnancies, c-section for abnormal presentation, and the professionalization of maternal staff.


Most importantly, Woods discusses the importance of considering factors that could affect fetal loss: the skills of the birth attendant (midwives or doctors), and the health of the pregnant woman, including her social, economic, demographics, nutrition, disease environment, or even biological and genetic factors. Today, we know more about genetic and biological factors that lead to fetal loss, as they are the most common.

On August 28, 2014, Dr. Susan Stone wrote “Focus On Preventive Care As The Long-Term Strategy To Improve Health” The Huffington Post, discussing the idea that “there has been a lot of press about the rising maternal mortality rates in the United States in spite of the fact that we spend nearly $30 billion dollars a year caring for mothers and their babies.” Why is that?

Stone notes that “a contributing factor associated with many of these poor outcomes is obesity. The rising rate of obesity in the United States is affecting our health, and this is reflected in our birth outcomes. In 1962, just 13 percent of Americans were classified as obese. Today, that number is closer to 60 percent.”

Despite being a technologically advanced nation, our maternal mortality rates are slowly climbing.  Historian Robert Woods has it right when he suggests that prenatal conditions and delivery circumstances contribute to the conditions that affect an infant after a live birth. However, it can further be suggested that prenatal conditions directly correlate to the health and well being of children for their entire lives.

What do you think? Should more attention be given to getting mothers healthy and prepared for pregnancy and childbirth? Is this a global issue?

It is widely accepted that nutrition plays a vital role in the health of a growing baby….how long before a pregnancy should a woman be concerned with her own nutrition to support a growing human?

Something fun: What foods did you crave while pregnant!! (My husband is adamant I ate too many pickles. I, however, do not remember it the same way he does.)