This week's BioNews reports on a three month-old baby whose birth will become part of the medical history. Emily Perry was born after her mother Helen put her eggs into frozen storage, then had them thawed out, fertilised and transferred to her womb. As medical science has developed and laws have changed to reflect that progress, the issue of egg freezing has hit the headlines with increased frequency. But, unlike previous egg freezing stories, the arrival of Emily Perry has been greeted somewhat positively.
Of course it always helps when a pretty baby is presented to the world. Emily's parents are clearly delighted with her and their new-found role as parents. In the face of such joy, even the most hardened critic must find it difficult not to be pleased for the Perrys. But the personal joy angle of the story was not the only reason for the its positive response in the media. The way the story was presented by the head of the medical team, Dr Gillian Lockwood, was effective in disarming the critics. Dr Lockwood explained that the egg freezing technique is currently best suited to women who have no other way of having a genetically related child. But, she added, 'the technology will work just as well for the Bridget Jones generation who want to keep their reproductive options open.' There is no better way of disarming ones critics than to anticipate their criticism (that egg freezing for medical purposes will lead to egg freezing for 'career women') and mention it first. Dr Lockwood was the first to admit that, sooner or later, women will become interested in this technique as a way of postponing motherhood, thereby taking the controversy out of it.
One criticism which could be levelled against the way the story has appeared is that it tends to give the impression that egg freezing is a viable alternative to natural conception. For women with little or no choice in the matter (because their fertility is under immediate threat), the expense and low success of egg freezing may be worth it. But for a fertile young woman, it's probably a better bet to leave things to nature for the time being.