Egg Freezing: Prioritize Support for Balance between Childbirth and Work

More and more women are hoping to freeze their eggs so they can have a child in the future. There is a tendency for women to postpone having a child because they are concerned about how they will balance work and childbirth, so it is crucial to create an environment that facilitates childbirth.

In the past, egg freezing was used mainly by cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy, to leave them a chance of having a child. In recent years, however, the procedure has also been used by women with no health problems so that they can store their eggs and use them when they are ready to have a child.

As women get older, their eggs decrease in number and quality, making it more difficult for them to get pregnant. This is why egg freezing has caught the attention of women who do not have a partner or who need to prioritize work for the time being.

Last fiscal year, the Tokyo metropolitan government established a program to provide up to ¥300,000 for the egg freezing costs for women ages 18 to 39 living in Tokyo.

In the first year, the number of applicants was seven times more than the originally expected figure, and this year the scale of the program has been greatly expanded. Yamanashi Prefecture has said it also plans to launch a similar subsidy program.

The idea likely is aimed at broadening life planning options for women.

However, egg collection involves certain risks, such as side effects from medications. And if a woman delays pregnancy too long and gives birth at an older age, the burden on her body will be greater than if she is younger.

Even if eggs are frozen, there is not a high chance of success for conception and delivery, and it is not always possible to have a child. Administrative entities and medical professionals should carefully explain the procedure to women so they can properly understand it.

The municipal government of Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, carried out a project in cooperation with Juntendo University Urayasu Hospital in which the eggs of healthy women were frozen for three years starting in fiscal 2015, in order to study measures to deal with the declining birth rate. Thirty-four women participated in the project, but only one baby was actually born from a frozen egg.

As for the Tokyo metropolitan government’s subsidy program, it will be essential to fully examine the program’s effectiveness going forward since public funds are being invested in it.

In some cases, companies subsidize the cost of egg freezing as part of their employee benefits.

It is important to provide generous support for employees. It is more important, however, to ensure that female employees do not have to give up their careers and are not disadvantaged at work because of childbirth.

One survey shows that about half of young people ages 18 to 25 believe they do not want to have children in the future. This seems to be due to financial issues and a lack of confidence in their ability to raise children.

The central government should promote measures so that women can feel they want to have children when the possibility of pregnancy and giving birth is high.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 27, 2024)