Book release ‘Egg freezing, fertility and reproductive choice’ by Kylie Baldwin

Birth rate in England and Wales hits record low amid falling fertility rates

London Evening Standard, 1st August 2019

Number of women freezing their eggs triples in just five years

The Telegraph, 23rd March 2016

Apple and Facebook offer to freeze eggs for female employees

The Guardian, 15th October 2014

Don’t put all of your (frozen) eggs in one basket

The New York Times, 19th July 2019

Is It Really Worth Freezing Your Eggs?

Grazia Magazine, 15th March 2019

As the above headlines and news stories suggest, recent years have seen significant media and academic interest in the topic of social egg freezing, which has captured public imagination and initiated widespread debate in a way perhaps not seen since the early days of IVF. Set in a context of falling fertility rates, rising age of mothers at the birth of their child, and the increasing commercialisation of reproduction and reproductive choice, social egg freezing is purported by some to be heralding in a new reproductive revolution allowing (some) women time unlimited control over their fertility. Social egg freezing, a somewhat controversial new tool in the practice of reproductive timing, is the focus of my new book, which is published today (5th September 2019) by Emerald books.

‘Egg freezing, fertility and reproductive choice: negotiating responsibility, hope, and modern motherhood’ is the culmination of several years of research and scholarship in this novel area and explores the accounts and experiences of some of the pioneering users of this technology in the UK and USA. Drawing on theories and concepts across medical sociology and parenting culture studies, as well as literature from demography, anthropology, law, and bioethics, this book examines women’s motivations and experiences of social egg freezing in the context of debates surrounding reproductive choice and delayed motherhood. The book also delves into the broader sociological questions raised by this technology in relation to the gendered burden of appropriately timed parenthood, the medicalisation of women’s bodies in the reproductive domain and the further entrenchment of the geneticisation of society. It also considers the sexual politics underpinning the timing of parenthood, relationship formation and progression, and the way in which reproductive and parenting ideals, values and expectations can come in to conflict with the biological and relational realities of women’s lives.

The writing of this monograph was kindly supported by the Foundation for Sociology of Health and Illness Mildred Blaxter Postdoctoral Fellowship without which I would have been unlikely to have had the time and resources required to produce a text of this kind.  Early on in my fellowship and during the production of the manuscript it became clear to me that I wanted to write a book that would not only contribute to the rich field of sociological research that uses qualitative methods to explore contemporary developments in assisted reproduction, but one that would be engaging and useful to academic and non-academic audiences alike. As such throughout my writing of this text I was keen for the tone and structure of the book to be sufficiently inclusive and accessible and thus suitable for informed publics, users and potential users of social egg freezing, as well as those involved in the delivery, management or regulation of assisted reproductive technologies.

In the first chapter I provide an overview of the text and each of the eight chapters within it, whilst I won’t reproduce this here, I thought it was worth signposting a little to and the content of the chapters and, in some cases, who may be interested in each section. Chapters one and two introduce social egg freezing setting it in its specific social, academic, demographic and technological context. Drawing on literature and academic scholarship from across the social sciences, demography, law and reproductive medicine, these chapters explore key practical issues such as egg freezing success rates, as well as the costs and risks of the procedure (chapter one) and considers several important contemporary debates relating to the practice of the technology such as the issue of over-medicalisation and company sponsored egg freezing (chapter two). Chapter three explores the complex issue of reproductive timing drawing on participant accounts of delayed and older motherhood and considers how women perceive the ‘right’ time for parenthood. Chapter four examines how ideologies of parenthood, such as the intention to engage in practices of intensive motherhood, shapes women’s perceptions of their readiness to become a mother and considers women’s attitudes towards other routes to motherhood such as via sperm donation. Chapter five examines women’s motivations for egg freezing and chapter six provides an in-depth exploration of the experience of undergoing egg freezing for social reasons. As such, the end of chapter four, much of chapter five and all of chapter six may be of significant interest to women who are considering, or have, frozen their eggs as these chapters bring together the voices of many women who have been through the process and provides their reflections on the technology. Similarly, those involved in the provision or delivery of egg freezing may also find chapters five and six informative. In chapter seven I move away a little from focusing on egg freezing and explore how women’s reproductive intentions and actions are intimately entangled with the procreative consciousness or otherwise of male partners. Here I explore the sexual politics underpinning the timing of parenthood and examine the seemingly unequal power relations at play in the process of relationship formation and progression in large metropolitan cities. As well as being of interest to academics and researchers in medical sociology and anthropology this chapter may also be relevant to those working in family or intimacy studies. In chapter eight I draw together some of the discussion which spans several chapters of the book to lay bare how the decision to undergo social egg freezing and women’s experience of reproductive delay are shaped by powerful factors beyond women’s control as individuals. I also consider the new opportunities presented by social egg freezing but also the highly gendered burdens and responsibilities this technology generates.

woman holding baby while sitting on fur bean bag
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

This text is part of a new book series Emerald Studies in Reproduction, Culture and Society’ co-edited by Professor Nicky Hudson and Dr Petra Nordqvist. This book series brings together scholars from across the social sciences and humanities who are working in the broad field of human reproduction and publishes work from across the lifecycle of reproduction addressing issues such as conception, contraception, abortion, pregnancy, birth, infertility, pre and postnatal care, pre-natal screen and testing, IVF, prenatal genetic diagnosis, mitochondrial donation, surrogacy, adoption, reproductive donation, family-making and more. The series focuses on the social, cultural, material, legal, historical and political aspects of human reproduction, and aims to publish work from early career researchers as well as established scholars. The book series already has a number of other exciting forthcoming titles on the cryopolitics of reproduction, commercial surrogacy, and anti-abortion activism.  More information about the book series can be found here.

I am very pleased to have chosen to publish with Emerald as, aside from the usual stresses and strains associated with writing a monograph, I found the process very straightforward and felt well supported by the friendly publishing and marketing team throughout the writing and production of the book. Given my aim to produce a text with a wide readership beyond academia I am also delighted to say that the book is available to read for free online as a digital download supported by Knowledge Unlatched. Furthermore, a paperback copy is only £20 available via the Emerald Bookstore and Amazon which as many will know is significantly more financially affordable than many other academic books on the market.

I am sure that over the next few years we will see a number of books published which examine the topic of social egg freezing and I hope my book is able to contribute towards this growing area of sociological investigation and discussion both now and in the future.

To read this book for free online or via digital download please click here.

A paperback copy of the book can be bought for £20 via Amazon and Emerald Bookstore


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