Self-preservation of oocytes, a medical response to a social problem?

Until this summer, only women who had to undergo treatment that threatened their fertility, or as part of the donation of gametes, could freeze their oocytes. The bioethics law has extended this indication beyond medical prescription. As in most European countries, in France, a woman can now freeze her oocytes to delay a child project, whether alone or in a couple. This procedure is not without risks: it involves hormonal stimulation and surgery. And, of course, it does not guarantee that you will have a child soon afterwards, since medically assisted procreation procedures are rarely straightforward.

The two types of motivations, illness and celibacy after a certain age, are beyond their control ”Yolinliztli Perez Hernandez, anthropologist

But, unlike medical self-preservation, widely accepted by society, so-called “social” or “precautionary” self-preservation has been violently fought, in particular because it is supposed to respond to a “life choice” to procreate ” à la carte ”by eliminating the biological clock. However, as anthropologist Yolinliztli Perez Hernandez has shown, women’s motivations are quite different. The researcher conducted, for the National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED), interviews with 32 women, half of whom had frozen their oocytes for medical reasons and the other half, as a “precaution”.

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For the former, the question of the risks associated with this operation has never arisen in the public debate, and the reimbursement of the intervention is the subject of a consensus. “However, some have lived as a ‘no choice’, caught in the urgency of announcing a treatment, the fact of undergoing this intervention”, explains Mme Perez Hernandez. For the second, it is the fact of being separated from one’s spouse, of having more than 35 years or no companion, which motivated self-preservation. “But they do not control either of these two situations, neither illness nor celibacy”, notes the anthropologist.

“A threat to society”

So, why this suspicion addressed to women of wanting to privilege their career rather than the realization of a family? And even if some women – and / or their spouses – would put their career before a child project, why blame them? “Oocyte self-preservation appears to be a threat to society as a whole, because it affects the kinship system, the generational order and the reproductive order, we loveme Perez Hernandez. In the imaginary, reproduction could escape the passage of time and the participation of men in the education of children that women would be supposed to bring into the world on their own. Finally, as long as it follows a medical indication, this intervention is not likely to upset the social order, however, when its use becomes social, it announces nothing less than chaos. »

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Self-preservation of oocytes, a medical response to a social problem?

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