The Belgian website, levif.be, is focusing on a new technique presented by its team of designers as an “alternative to freezing oocytes to counteract the effects of age-related infertility“. But the announcement has raised a number of questions in Belgium: “freezing oocytes to ‘slow down the biological clock’ [isn’t that] a feminist whim?“.
UZ Jette, the University Hospital in Brussels, has in fact just announced the development of a new technique called “social freezing” or “AGE banking” for “anticipated gamete exhaustion“. Although it is still at the experimental stage in both Belgium and the United States, the process involves “the laparoscopic excision of a small section or the entire ovary of a cancer patient in order to refreeze it for subsequent reimplantation“. It is presented as an alternative to oocycte freezing because it is “faster” than the previous technique, explained Dr. Dominic Stoop, gynaecologist at UZ Jette. The primary aim is to eventually extend social freezing to all women who request this.
When asked for its opinion, the Belgian Consultation Committee was very much divided. In fact, whereas one half of the Committee sees this process as “the entitlement of an independent woman to make decisions regarding her fertility without any social pressure“, the other half views it as “the excessive medicalisation of a natural process whereby medicine is being used with a view to resolving a social problem that could be resolved by other means,” such as awareness campaigns encouraging earlier pregnancies or thoughts on the desire to control our bodies at any price when understanding the limitations set by nature seems a healthier option.
Bearing in mind that “pregnancy would definitely be more stressful for women of 40 or over“, Dr. Dominic Stoop concludes that the benefit would be “a reduced risk of Down syndrome”…