Apple and Facebook have an odd perquisite for their employees - they will pay for their employees to place oocytes in frozen storage — social freezing, also known as cryopreservation and egg freezing.

Companies may have a mercenary desire to do so, even if it comes across as altruism. By eliminating a biological clock for women, they can keep employees working longer hours, which will close that pay gap between men and women and make them look like noble while they reduce turnover. 

There has been concern about fertility resources for non-medical reasons, and that will always get mainstream media excited, but because of such manufactured controversy the medical consequences are often ignored.  Though the first successful pregnancy following oocyte cryopreservation was reported in 1986, there remains concern about obstetric or perinatal outcomes.

In a newly published review in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, Michael von Wolff et al. outline what needs to be considered before oocytes are placed in storage.

The principal advantage of social freezing is the ability to delay having children. Disadvantages are the high costs, the high rate of multiple pregnancies following artificial insemination and the elevated risk of complications that brings. The likelihood that in vitro fertilization will result in birth is estimated at up to 40 % for women under 35, but only 15 % above the age of 40. Furthermore, women over 40 are more likely to suffer from diseases of pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes.

The authors therefore recommend that women considering social freezing should weigh the realistic chances of success against the question of compatibility of work and family life and the potential risks for both mother and child.

Citation: von Wolff M, Germeyer A, Nawroth F: Fertility preservation for non-medical reasons—controversial, but increasingly common. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2015; 112: 27–32.