The Rise of Fertility Tech Makes Pregnancy a Luxury Good

The Rise of Fertility Tech Makes Pregnancy a Luxury Good
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It’s a looming question whether or not to bring children into a world that’s melting—but for those who decide to, having a baby is logistically tricky practice that gets more and more expensive the longer you wait.

Egg-freezing is becoming more and more popular, among people who want to put off procreating during their prime career-building years. But egg freezing isn’t a guaranteed path to pregnancy; research on the odds of successfully fertilizing eggs after freezing has been slim, and, according to a leading IVF clinic in Europe, only about a third of frozen eggs that are thawed successfully result in pregnancy.

To make this process easier, a company called Future Fertility has unveiled an algorithm that can detect which eggs will result in successful fertilization with 90 percent accuracy, Wired reported on Tuesday. (It’s still working on detecting whether embryos last more than five days or whether they’ll be successfully implanted within the patient’s uterus with as high accuracy.) Letting patients know which of their eggs is most likely to be successfully fertilized could save time and money in the long run, Wired notes. But the question of just how much patients will have to pay to access Future Fertility’s algorithm is still unknown. Wired reports:

[The medical director of Future Fertility, Dan] Nayot says it will be up to individual clinics to decide whether they’d seek a subscription to incorporate egg scoring as a standard part of egg freezing and IVF or offer it as an add-on service with additional fees.

Though technology has made becoming a parent a possibility to a wider range of people, that flexibility comes at a price, which makes it off-limits to all but the most wealthy. Freezing and storing your eggs has become more mainstream, but costs tens of thousands of dollars. “Many women will have to undergo the procedure more than once,” NPR reported in 2014, adding that “Most insurance companies don’t cover the cost of egg freezing, not even for medical reasons when a young woman’s fertility is jeopardized by cancer.”

Tech companies like Facebook and Google have started offering egg-freezing as a benefit for employees. But excluding scenarios in which health insurance covers these treatments, fertility treatments threaten to reinforce existing class divides as they climb in price. This is already happening with IVF. In December 2018, Collier Meyerson wrote for Wired:

Current law and policy surrounding IVF—where some are given access to expensive treatments while, for others, they remain out of reach—are tantamount to a new eugenics, [UC Irvine law professor Judith Daar] says, because they enable demographic features likes socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, marital status, sexual orientation, and disability to suppress access to reproductive technology.

New medical technology may be exciting, but it means nothing to patients if they cannot access it.

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