Science Prolonging Women’s Reproductive Years

If you could prolong your reproductive years would you? How do you feel about women having children even later in life than we already do?

A few days ago NPR had a segment about new research working toward the ability for women to regenerate their eggs similar to how men regenerate their sperm.The implications for this study are substantial especially for individual women, who for varying reasons, have reproductive challenges.

While the extraordinary capabilities of science and technology are undeniable, this study brings up a few concerns.

First, who benefits from women being able to prolong their reproductive years? Second, are we addressing the right concern?

As sociologist, Barbara Katz Rothman said to NPR, “we’re creating as a world one in which it’s increasingly hard for people to have children when they’re young, and then saying, ‘But wait, we have solutions, technology – we can do it when you’re older.'”

I couldn’t agree more. We’re already inundated with celebrity magazine showing us how women well into their 40s are having children, giving a false sense of our reproductive years. While technology enabling us to regenerate our eggs is an incredible discovery, I worry this sidetracks our mission to help society make it easier for women to balance career and family.

Not only that, girls are getting their periods at a much younger age (like 8 or 9) and women are waiting to have children (like 30+) which is increasing our lifetime exposure to estrogen and monthly cycles (increasing frequency of cellular division in the ovaries). Some researchers are attributing these factors to increasing rates in reproductive cancers. Does prolonging our fertile years benefit our individual health?

Science and technology are not inherently detrimental to progressing women’s reproductive concerns. They often give us options, choices, and babies when our “window” of opportunity starts to change shape. What is concerning is the unequal time and energy we put into supporting women who are both family and career oriented. With new reproductive breakthroughs we neglect to address the reason why reproductive technologies are necessary in the first place. What if women didn’t have to postpone starting a family for their career or vice versa? What if women didn’t risk losing their job or related medical benefits for starting a family? Perhaps addressing these concerns aren’t as flashy as medical breakthroughs.

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