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Podcast Review: Freezing time

26 October 2020
Appeared in BioNews 1069

Freezing Time is a new podcast series that follows writer Sophia Money-Coutts, journalist and author, on her journey to freeze her eggs. This review covers the first two episodes. The backbone of the series is Money-Coutts' own experience as a white, middle-class, single, heterosexual woman, presented through her voice diary. Talking to numerous guests, the series also explores other experiences of egg freezing, and discusses broader social issues related to the topic. Despite warning those who do not know how sperm and eggs work that this might not be the right podcast for them, she in fact finds plenty of time, with the help of expert guests, to cover the basics of reproductive health, along with more specific detail on egg freezing.

Episode one starts at the very beginning. Money-Coutts is freezing her eggs because she is in her mid-thirties and has not found the right partner to start a family with. This is known as 'social egg freezing', but listeners will quickly learn that Money-Coutts despises the term for making a serious medical procedure sound 'like something you do at a cocktail party'. Money-Coutts gets a fertility test with holistic fertility specialist Zita West and asks her a host of questions, covering anything from the dreaded fertility cliff of 35 years to whether or not wine can fit into the egg freezing process. West reiterates to Money-Coutts the difficulty of giving general estimates due to significant individual variation in reproductive health and ageing. She recommends 20 eggs to be frozen for a realistic chance of a live birth, but insists that there are no guarantees.

In episode two, Money-Coutts gets started with her medication and sets out to unpick the 'layer upon layer of shame' that women can face when choosing to freeze their eggs. We hear the stories of three women who each had a very different experience. The first guest, Love Island star Amy Hart, decided to opt for egg freezing in her late twenties because she knew she wanted children but was single and aware of the fact that early menopause ran in her family. She explains that it was only when she started talking about it that she realised how much it needed to be talked about. It was more about building awareness than fighting stigma, as Hart saw the option of having children later in life and potentially without a partner as a personal choice that allowed her more freedom.

The experience of Egyptian Reem Mehanna, who was the first woman in Egypt to get her eggs frozen in 2019, could not have been more different. Mehanna wanted to take her time to find the right husband. But there is a taboo in Egypt, Mehanna explains, around unmarried women even talking about anything to do with reproduction, which complicated the entire process. Her doctor was surprised that she asked for the procedure and her family, as well as the broader public, were not in support of egg freezing. Indeed, the idea of her becoming a single mother via sperm donation, which was so readily available to Hart, would be unthinkable for Mehanna.

Acknowledging that egg freezing is mostly targeted at white professional women brings Money-Coutts to American writer and journalist Reniqua Allen-Lamphere, author of New York Times article 'Is egg freezing only for white women?'. Allen-Lamphere considered egg freezing, but decided against it. With powerful eloquence, Allen-Lamphere explains that in the US, there is an enduring stereotype of Black women as hyper-fertile and, if anything, having too many kids, meaning that fertility preservation is not taken seriously for Black US communities. Despite health issues that could impact her fertility, none of Allen-Lamphere's doctors had suggested egg freezing. To Allen-Lamphere, the idea of technologically assisted single motherhood as empowering, advertised in brochures with pictures of skinny white women, stood in stark contrast to how women like her own mother were stigmatised as 'baby mamas'.

Freezing Time is equal parts educational and fun. Money-Coutts manages to make an issue that is often presented in terms of despair and the obscure seem relatable and unmistakably human. She uses terms like 'lady parts' and then immediately apologises for it, highlighting with honest humour the awkwardness we can feel when talking about reproduction. But this light-hearted approach does not prevent her from taking on the topic in all its complexity. Reproduction is personal and it is medical, but it is also always political. Freezing Time does not shy away from any of these aspects and somehow still leaves us with a chuckle.

PET's #ExtendTheLimit petition at calls on the UK Government to extend the ten-year storage limit for eggs frozen for non-medical (social) reasons.

The petition has amassed more than 1200 signatures to date. Help the petition reach 1500 signatures by reading, signing and sharing it.

Freezing Time
Sophia Money-Coutts |  10 September 2020
20 July 2020 - by Ana Hallgarten 
On 9 July 2020, the Progress Educational Trust hosted its first online event. It explained and discussed the recent change to UK law in regard to the storage of embryos and gametes...
27 April 2020 - by Dr Catherine Hill 
The Government has announced a two-year storage extension for eggs, sperm and embryos to give people extra time to access fertility services, whilst the UK tackles the coronavirus pandemic...
2 March 2020 - by Sarah Norcross 
Changing the law is a central part of what the Progress Educational Trust (PET) does. PET was born out of a campaign – the Progress Campaign for Research into Human Reproduction – and more than 30 years later, remains actively involved in several campaigns. It is in our DNA to campaign on your behalf...
27 January 2020 - by Annabel Slater 
The legislation surrounding gamete freezing is complicated and difficult to comprehend, even for people with law degrees. The Progress Educational Trust's latest event 'Frozen Fertility: The Challenges of Storing Eggs, Sperm and Embryos', held at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, set out to explore the current state of play...
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