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When Michele Harrison turned 40, she decided to sell her New York City apartment to buy a bigger one. She could afford it after laser-focusing on her career, working late nights as a single woman, traveling constantly for ad agencies and then in marketing at ESPN.

However, studies suggest that women over 40 have an increased risk of pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and preterm birth. Most fertility clinics therefore set age cutoffs. “Even if we could take a woman’s own egg and make it perfect as technology evolves, there is an age at which you cross the line from acceptable to unacceptable risk,” says Alan Penzias, a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF and chair of the ASRM’s practice committee, which sets policy for the organization. “Physiologically it can be done, but it shouldn’t be done. A woman’s body is not designed to be pregnant past her early 50s.”

But setting limits on who can get pregnant is tricky. “Men are certainly positioned to become fathers later in life, and no one has proposed banning that, so why should we prohibit women from becoming moms later in life?” asks Ruth Faden, founder of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. She sees the issue as just the latest salvo over reproductive rights in the US, “respecting the rights of women to control their own reproductive stories.”

Still, it’s undeniable that from a purely physiological perspective, pregnancy is the purview of the relatively young. “I always remind people that medicine has been able to lengthen life span, but somehow women’s reproductive life span hasn’t changed,” says Mandy Katz-Jaffe, scientific director at CCRM, where Harrison was treated. The ovaries are the fastest-aging organ, doing their job only from puberty to menopause. People who live longer, healthier lives have more time to build their families, but women’s bodies haven’t evolved to easily allow that. …

…continue reading ‘One mother’s nail-biting journey from egg-freezing to parenthood’

thumb image via article: Amrita Marino

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MIT Technology Review

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