Disrupting the biological clock: Fertility benefits, egg freezing and proactive fertility management

Van de Wiel, Lucy 

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In the last decade, the IVF sector has witnessed a shift from so-called reactive IVF to a new model of proactive fertility care. Whereas IVF was traditionally developed to treat people who found they were unable to conceive, the indication for IVF has broadened significantly to include a much wider group of potential patients through a new focus on proactive treatment of future (in)fertilities. This shift combines a number of new trends pertaining to preservation, prediction, private equity and platformisation, all of which have gained influence in contemporary assisted reproduction. This article focuses on the emergence of company-sponsored fertility benefits, which combines each of these trends.

Whereas fertility benefits—especially egg freezing insurance—have primarily been discussed in terms of women’s empowerment or disenfranchisement, this article instead calls attention to the discursive, clinical and infrastructural shifts in contemporary assisted reproduction that have emerged with the rising popularity of these benefits. The analysis addresses these underdiscussed aspects of fertility benefits by focusing on the dynamics of demand, the shifts in the rationalisation of intensified treatment pathways in the face of new reimbursement practices, and the online, platform-based infrastructures that are built to provide these treatments. In doing so, it analyses how this remaking of fertility towards an ethos of proactive fertility management reflects broader capitalist tailwinds.

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Add-ons, Egg freezing, Fertility, Fertility benefits, IVF, Insurance
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Reproductive Biomedicine & Society Online
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Elsevier BV
Wellcome Trust (209829/Z/17/Z)
The research on which this article was supported by the Wellcome Trust [grant number 209829/Z/17/Z], University of Cambridge, King’s College London and the Alan Turing Institute. I thank the two anonymous peer reviewers and the members of the Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc) at the University of Cambridge for their valuable feedback.